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Professional thieves are probably scratching their heads in disbelief while learning of one of the largest jewelry heists ever pulled off by one person. Jacmel Jewelers in Queens, New York discovered that $12 million dollars worth of stolen gold chunks and jewelry was missing from their vault in February of this year. Who had managed to steal such an amount right from under their noses? The answer would be shocking to everyone involved.

Teresa Tambunting of Scarsdale, New York is an unassuming and soft spoken mother of three. She started at Jacmel Jewelers in 1977 and eventually became the vault manager in 1991 earning an estimated $165,000 a year. Over the Christmas holidays, relatives said Teresa talked about her fears about the recession and how it is affecting her family. Her nephew, Georgia Perez, said that she was afraid that the turmoil on Wall Street would force her husband out of a job. “They were saying this was one of their worst years, but this year is going to be much better,” said Perez. What he and his family members didn’t know was that the Tambuntings had a $12 million dollar treasure trove stashed in their basement.

Prosecutors say that Tambunting had been secretly smuggling jewelry and small pieces of gold in the lining of her purse for six years. The audit revealing the theft forced her to come forward. After the audit, Tambunting came to work with 80 pounds worth of jewelry and gold stuffed in a suitcase and confessed to one of her bosses. According to law enforcement, she said that she “had to steal it.” Jack Rahmey, president of Jacmel Jewelers, said that the remainder of the 500 pound loot had to be returned to the company from her home. She is charged with grand larceny and is free for now on $100,000 bail. If convicted, she faces up to 25 years in prison.

No one will really ever know the real reason why she stole the money. She hadn’t even spent a single cent of it. Rumor has it that her attorneys are preparing an obsessive-compulsive disorder defense.

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