Thief who targeted jewelry store sent to prison
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.