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Thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen from Beads of Bainbridge
A Winslow bead store is asking for help locating jewelry that was stolen from its shop, then sold to other merchants and islanders.
Beads of Bainbridge suffered a breach of trust this week after a regular customer allegedly stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
It is likely that the customer sold the merchandise to other shops and locals.
"We want anyone that has bought items from (the thief) to return them because they are stolen from local artists," said Amy Margaret Kapphan, manager of Beads of Bainbridge.
Kapphan explained that the regular, a woman in her 30s, used an apparent illness to gain the confidence of store employees over time.
"She manipulated us," she said.
"She was very nice, and we felt so bad for her. I was sick about it. She was visibly very ill and it was sad to see someone that sick," Kapphan said.
The woman told the employees at Beads of Bainbridge that she was recovering from anorexia and art was part of her recovery.
"She said she was being inspired," Kapphan said. "She said that her doctor wanted her to do something sedentary so this was like therapy; she was going to get into beading. It was something she needed in her path to get back on track."
Kapphan and other store employees felt they were helping the woman who came into the store every day for three weeks.
"She was very sick," Kapphan recalled. "After the first time she came in I cried. She was very skinny, severely anorexic."
The woman spent a total of $8 in the store during the entire time she was there.
But on Monday, June 17, the woman tried to return 15 strands of gemstones for cash. The strands were valued at $245.
Cheri Brune, the store's owner, immediately knew the items were stolen. She told the woman that she needed to find paperwork on the beads and would call her later about the refund. Brune called the police instead.
Officer Trevor Ziemba spoke with the woman who immediately turned over $1,300 in stolen beads, similar to the strands she attempted to return earlier that day.
But before the officer could return to the Winslow bead store, it became apparent that even more items had been stolen from the business.
Another Winslow store owner came into the bead shop to get a clasp repaired on a new bracelet. The bracelet was purchased from their mutual regular customer and was another stolen item from the bead store.
On Tuesday, Officer Ziemba met once again with the woman and retrieved approximately $1,000 in hand-made jewelry. The woman admitted to the officer to selling 30 pieces of stolen jewelry. She further said that she sold items to 15 local merchants that she frequented, Kapphan said.
"She was selling it, saying that she made it," Kapphan said.
To date, only three local merchants have returned items they purchased from the woman. Beads of Bainbridge employees believe more items are still missing and have likely been sold locally. The extent of the theft has yet to be determined.
"We are estimating that there is about $5,000 (in merchandise) missing that has not been returned," Kapphan said.
While the bead strands were merchandise from the store, the finished jewelry was on consignment.
"It's not just a hit to us, it's a hit to local artists," Kapphan said.
One such artist is Ali Holmes, who is also an employee at the shop.
"We don't know who she sold it to," Holmes said. "I personally had eight pairs of earrings stolen. I would like them back to sell."
Criminal charges are being sought in the case. Beads of Bainbridge employees hope that through the court system the woman will get the help she needs.
Anyone who may have purchased stolen beads or jewelry can contact Beads of Bainbridge or the Bainbridge Island Police Department.
Kapphan lauded Ziemba, and said that he handled the situation with extreme sensitivity. Ziemba worked with the woman's family, taking into consideration possible mental illness while handling the case.
The store has learned from the experience and has installed 10 new security cameras. The employees are more on guard, as well.
"We live on Bainbridge and people say, 'It's so safe.' But it's not like theft and crime doesn't happen here," Holmes said.
"It's easy to say it's a happy place and it's safe; to have this idea that this stuff doesn't happen on Bainbridge, but it does," she said.