NYPD Nabs International Fugitive Wanted for Series of High-End Jewelry Thefts

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
May 7, 2024US News
NYPD Nabs International Fugitive Wanted for Series of High-End Jewelry Thefts
A Tiffany & Co. store is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, on Sept. 10, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

A fugitive accused in a string of high-end jewelry thefts in the U.S. and abroad has been arrested and charged in New York.

Yaorong Wan, 49, appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court over the weekend for his arraignment and was charged with two counts of grand larceny.

The fugitive was wanted by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the International Criminal Police Organization, better known as INTERPOL. The agency had a “Red Notice” out for him, which alerts law enforcement worldwide about internationally wanted fugitives. His alleged crime spree began in South Korea and later spanned multiple high-end jewelry stores in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.

NYPD’s Major Case Squad finally arrested the international jewelry thief on Friday. Authorities tracked him down after he allegedly stole nearly $300,000 worth of diamond rings from at least two high-end jewelry stores in New York back in March.

On March 4, Mr. Wan reportedly targeted Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue in Rockefeller Center, where he expressed interest in several jewelry pieces. A Tiffany employee allowed him to hold a $255,000 ring, which Mr. Wan switched out for a dupe, according to the criminal complaint.

“The genuine Tiffany ring contained a natural diamond mounted in platinum. Furthermore, the genuine ring contained engraving, hallmarking, a unique SKU number, all of which were not present on the counterfeit ring,” the complaint stated.

The store noticed the real ring was gone one week after it was stolen during the bait-and-switch theft. A routine store inventory revealed the fake, according to authorities. The employee accepted a counterfeit zirconia stone mounted on an 18-carat white gold ring instead of the original, genuine piece.

Mr. Wan stole from the Cartier store in Hudson Yards later that month, prosecutors allege. He interacted with an employee about multiple pieces of jewelry. This time he specifically expressed interest in two diamond rings and two watches. He was able to successfully nab one diamond ring valued at $25,000.

“While [the Cartier employee] was distracted, [Wan] handed back one of the diamond rings to [the Cartier employee], but kept the second diamond ring in his hand, placed that ring in his pocket, and left the store a short time later without paying for the ring and without permission or authority to take the ring,” the complaint stated.

Mr. Wan allegedly began stealing jewelry in September 2018 in Seoul, where he swiped a $330,000 diamond ring from a Tiffany store. After a years-long hiatus, he eventually came to the U.S. last December and began casing several high-end jewelry locations. This includes a Cartier store in Beverly Hills, where he made out with a $10,000 watch and a $48,000 diamond ring. At one point, he also went to Miami, where he allegedly walked away with a $16,000 watch.

The NYPD ultimately traced him to an apartment building in Queens last week. When arrested, he provided police with fake documents that fraudulently identified him as Wen San.

Mr. Wan’s next court date is set for May 14 in Manhattan Criminal Court.

After his arraignment, he was sent to Nassau County to face additional grand larceny charges, where he remains jailed on $500,000 cash bail or a $1 million bond.

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