Employee arrested after more than $ 100,000 in jewelry goes missing from St. Pete’s network
It started in May 2020.
Within six months, between $ 100,000 and $ 200,000 worth of jewelry disappeared from the America’s Auction Channel in St. Petersburg.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office began investigating after Reco Wallace of St. Petersburg carried out “exorbitant amounts of pawnbrokers,” according to court documents. Among the pawned items were large amounts of unique jewelry.
An investigator observed Wallace driving a 2007 Chevrolet Impala registered in the name of a woman named Monique Bigelow.
Bigelow, now 36, was an employee of America’s Auction Channel, court documents show. In 2016, she was made redundant but was rehired in the summer of 2018.
Investigators spoke with an official who identified several pieces of jewelry that Wallace had pawned. The manager did not know Wallace and said he was not allowed to pledge the items, which belonged to the trading network. The same official identified Bigelow as an employee who oversaw the making of jewelry for the company.
The company’s manager and purchasing manager discovered that Bigelow had altered the quantities and values of the jewelry upon receipt so that she could remove items from inventory without anyone noticing. Investigators said Bigelow was not allowed to take or pawn the items.
Bigelow and Wallace were both held in Pinellas County Jail on December 27. They were each arrested for a fraud scheme and are being held on $ 100,000 bond.
Network founder and owner Jeremiah Hartman can’t remember why Bigelow was first fired, but believes a department manager may have let her go. It wasn’t for something “excruciating”, he said. In 2018, she was rehired, Hartman said.
Hartman’s advice for other small business owners?
“Trust, but verify,” he said. Hartman said an employee lost his job because he was falsely accused of stealing the missing jewelry.
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“When someone keeps pointing at someone else, watch where the finger is attached,” Hartman said.
Hartman said it was not the first time he had faced employee issues in his more than 20 years of managing the sales network. While now with 28 employees, the company previously employed around 250 people and faced challenges ranging from internal theft to espionage.
“You can have five or ten bad employees who can really make it difficult and bring an organization down,” he said.
In 2001, Hartman launched his network, initially by auctioning jewelry. The trading network then sold items ranging from fur coats and antiques to coins and even real estate. At one point, the show was running 24/7. Now he is focusing on coins, jewelry and real estate, according to his website. The show airs at various hours of the evening every day except Wednesday.
Hartman sold most of his business to a billionaire couple in 2017. But within months, the network went bankrupt under their leadership, he said, and Hartman decided to sue. It reopened the network on a smaller scale in December 2017.