It took her six years, but a determined woman admitted to stealing millions of dollars worth of gold from her employer using a handbag.
Teresa Tambunting, a veteran employee of a Queens jewelry manufacturer, was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
She is accused of stealing 500 pounds in gold from her employer, Jacmel Jewelry in Long Island City, by hiding a few ounces at a time in her purse before she left for the day, according prosecutors.
"The defendant is accused of establishing a virtual mining operation in Long Island City which siphoned off millions of dollars' worth of the precious metal," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said at Tambunting’s trial this week.
More than half a decade after her first heist, the Scarsdale woman had lifted a total of $12 million in gold.
The 50-year-old gold digger cut out a fake lining in her handbag to hide the loot – a total of about 31 gold bars, prosecutors said. Authorities at Jacmel caught on to the blood-letting in January when they conducted an internal audit. Surprise, surprise, they were short the equivalent of about $12 million in gold, which currently trades for about $900 an ounce, according to the New York Post.
As her bosses began to review the books to figure out what went wrong in their accounting, Tambunting’s guilt overcame her. “I am a very sick woman; I took the gold,” she told her stupefied managers, according to the Post.
Long considered “highly trusted” among her bosses, the 28-year employee ended up returning about $7.3 million of the heisted gold. That means nearly $5 million was still at large, but officials said some of that could’ve gone missing in the accounting process, the Post reported.
Tambunting was a vault manager at Jacmel for nearly two decades. The woman, who earned $160,000 a year, was one of the few employees who had access to the safe. Security was tight, Jacmel said, but it appears Tambunting outsmarted them.
The suspect lives in a multi-million home in Scarsdale with her husband and three children, the Post reported. Authorities were investigating her finances.
Tambunting was released on $100,000 bail earlier this week. She faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Her lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, according to the Post.