Thief who tar­geted jew­elry store sent to prison

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mont­coCourtNews on Twit­ter

COURT­HOUSE » A Philadel­phia man is on his way to prison after he ad­mit­ted to steal­ing more than $13,000 worth of jew­elry, dur­ing a “dis­trac­tion-style theft,” from the Liz El Jewel Box store in Am­bler.

Richard Lee For­rest, 55, of the 1800 block of Har­ri­son Street, was sen­tenced in Mont­gomery County Court to two to four years in a state cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by un­law­ful tak­ing in con­nec­tion with the Jan­uary 2016 in­ci­dent at the jew­elry store.

Judge Wil­liam R. Car­pen­ter also or­dered For­rest to pay $13,600 in resti­tu­tion to the own­ers of the busi­ness. For­rest was also or­dered to stay away from the vic­tim.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan about 1:50 p.m. Jan. 19, 2016, when Am­bler po­lice re­sponded to the jew­elry store in the 100 block of East But­ler Av­enue and the own­ers re­ported that a man had just stolen a tray of men’s diamond rings. A to­tal of seven men’s 14-carat gold diamond rings, val­ued at $13,600, were re­ported stolen, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed by Am­bler De­tec­tive Chad Cas­sel.

Wit­nesses re­ported the man, who was in the store for ap­prox­i­mately 20 min­utes, ini­tially in­quired about a neck­lace for his brother but then asked about an item the owner did not have in stock, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint. When the owner went to call the store’s sup­plier on the phone, the sus­pect took off his win­ter coat and put it on top of the dis­play case, de­tec­tives al­leged.

With the store owner dis­tracted, the sus­pect “reached over the glass dis­play case two times and was able to grab the tray of rings on the sec­ond try,” Cas­sel al­leged in court papers. The sus­pect, later iden­ti­fied as For­rest, placed the tray of rings in his sweat­shirt pouch, and then put his coat back on, de­tec­tives said.

For­rest spoke with the store owner and agreed to put a $400 down pay­ment on the items he wanted to pur­chase but then said he needed to go to the bank and left the store. For­rest never re­turned, de­tec­tives said.

Wit­nesses told de­tec­tives the thief was last seen on foot trav­el­ing east on East But­ler Av­enue, but a search of the area was un­suc­cess­ful. De­tec­tives ob­tained sur­veil­lance footage of the theft and through the me­dia sought the as­sis­tance of the public in iden­ti­fy­ing the sus­pect.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant con­tacted Philadel­phia po­lice and iden­ti­fied For­rest as the thief. The vic­tim sub­se­quently iden­ti­fied For­rest, in a po­lice photo ar­ray, as the man who stole the tray of rings, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

For­rest was later ar­rested by Philadel­phia po­lice.

De­tec­tives char­ac­ter­ized the in­ci­dent as a “dis­trac­tion-style theft,” dur­ing which For­rest stayed in the story for an ex­tended pe­riod of time or un­til an em­ployee was dis­tracted.

“This gives For­rest the op­por­tu­nity to reach over and re­move items from the dis­play case with­out their knowl­edge,” said Cas­sel.

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