DOWNTOWN — It was like any other negotiation, the seller starting with their asking price, countered with an offer by the buyer, parting ways if neither can agree.
That’s exactly how it was for Michael Kurt when two women walked into his Wilshire Boulevard store earlier this month to sell a necklace and matching bracelet set for $1,000.
He offered a lower bid of $850, they balked and left.
There was nothing suspicious or unusual about the pair that set off any alarm bells, that is until Kurt received a letter from Tamara Kroner the following day warning jewelry store owners and pawn shop brokers to keep an eye out for a three-strand pearl necklace and bracelet that were stolen from her Cheviot Hills home on June 28 during an open house.
“Immediately upon seeing the letter, I remembered the two articles,” Kurt said.
The president of Jewels by Kurt is now being credited with recovering the missing piece that Kroner received as a wedding day gift from her parents, orchestrating a sting operation when the suspects contacted him just a few weeks later about selling the set for his originally quoted price.
The suspects, Los Angeles residents Desiree Nicholas and Crystal Reed, have been released since posting bail soon after their July 21 arrest in Santa Monica. Authorities are investigating whether the pair is also responsible for similar acts of theft during other open houses over the past year.
Detective Gilbert Esquibel of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Los Angeles Division said he anticipates that a case will be filed with the L.A. County District Attorney.
“It was great to have (Kurt) involved in helping us,” Esquibel said. “The victim worked hard on her own in getting photos out about her jewelry and he was great enough to call her back and tell her he saw the jewelry.”
The Kroner family returned home several hours after the open house had ended to find that a locked drawer containing their valuables had been opened. Missing was five passports, emergency cash, credit cards, the wedding set, Kroner’s engagement ring and her son’s cell phone, which she confiscated earlier that day.
It was her son who discovered that the possessions were missing.
After filing a police report, Kroner spent a sleepless night wracked by guilt after telling her devastated parents that their 16-year-old wedding present had been stolen. It was a custom-made gift they had purchased hoping it would be passed down to future generations.
“The only way I was able to handle the guilt and sleepless nights was trying to act and do anything I could to find it myself,” Kroner said.
She began calling pawn brokers but didn’t get far in her search until the owner of the eighth shop provided a helpful tip — save time by sending a mass letter to all pawn shops and jewelry stores in the region.
In the letter, which she sent to 300 shops in the Los Angeles area, she described the missing jewelry — a three-strand white pearl necklace with a rectangular shaped center containing a diamond and emerald, an accompanying bracelet, and an 18K gold engagement ring with a round cut diamond complemented by four round and four baguette sidestones. Some photos were attached with the letter.
A week later, Kroner received a call from Jewels by Kurt who said he would contact her if the women returned. Kurt in the meantime contacted Jack Sarkissian of Jack’s Jewelers on Santa Monica Boulevard after the suspects noted that they got a better deal there.
Sarkissian said the women came in asking for $1,000 for the set. He instead offered $800 and the pair left saying they could get a better deal in the San Fernando Valley. After Sarkissian received the warning call from Kurt, the women returned, asking if the offer was still good for $800.
He refused, but the women came back a week later, trying to sell the set at the originally quoted offer, saying that she needed the cash to pay the rent.
“I tried to give her an excuse not to buy,” Sarkissian said. “She came the third time trying to sell it desperately.”
The women contacted Kurt, who asked that they call back in 10 minutes, at which time he contacted the Santa Monica Police Department and Kroner, who in turn called Esquibel.
At around 6 p.m., the suspects came into the store with the stolen wedding set and were arrested on scene.
“It was her being diligent by sending pictures and not being depressed about it … and it took my being interested and wanting to get a bad guy,” Kurt said. “I am sick and tired of hearing stories about people being robbed.”
Kroner, who owns an environmental engineering consulting firm with her husband, said that while receiving her jewelry back was a “faint dream,” she realistically didn’t think it was possible.
“As time went by, I didn’t think I would but I never gave up hope on myself,” she said.
The engagement ring, cell phone and passports have not been recovered.
The family had one more open house after the burglary, but hired a security guard and removed all valuables from the home. The house has also since been sold.
While the realtor for the house did remember the two women stopping by, he did not find anything suspicious about them. Another broker in the same neighborhood who also saw the suspects on the same day wasn’t as trusting and even went out to snap a photo of the car they were driving — a Cadillac, which was impounded by authorities.
Kroner’s feeling thankful these days.
“To have no obligation, to simulate a sale for jewelry while he had detectives all around him in bullet proof jackets, was just amazing,” Kroner said of the jeweler. “They walked in at 6 (p.m.) and (police) arrested them and (Kurt) called me at 6:45 and said ‘they caught them and got your jewelry.’”