Diamond thief strikes in New Canaan
Published 6:53 pm, Wednesday, February 8, 2012
A New Canaan woman who reported her diamond rings were swapped with cubic zirconia several months ago now counts herself among several victims of a similar crime. George Lawrence Jr., 40, of Bridgeport, was charged with first-degree larceny Jan. 30 at 12:50 p.m. for swapping out the woman's diamonds.
Lawrence was discovered as the thief who replaced a New Canaan resident's rings with cubic zirconia in July 2011. The complainant, who resides on Sunset Hill Road, initially reported that her diamond engagement ring, valued at $11,050, and diamond family heirloom ring, valued at $10,800, was somehow switched with cubic zirconia when she went to get the stones fixed and checked July 28.
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A New Canaan officer later read an article in the Stamford Advocate, a Hearst Connecticut Newspaper, about an extermination company called Guaranty Pest Elimination that had been involved in a similar instance in Stamford and Darien.
The complainant revealed that the company came to her residence in mid-July for a pest issue.
After an investigation, police charged Lawrence, who works for the company, with first-degree larceny. The diamonds were not recovered.
He posted a $20,000 bond and will appear in court Feb. 10.
Back in November, Lawrence was charged with first-degree larceny for a separate diamond swap in Darien. A Darien woman noticed her diamond had also been replaced with a fake May 5, 2011. Lawrence was sent to the home by the same company to check for pests on May 3, 2011. The Darien complainant said her ring was worth $10,000 when it was purchased nearly 17 years ago.
He was also charged by Stamford police with second-degree larceny and first-degree criminal mischief back in November for a separate incident. Darien and Stamford police worked together to connect the crimes to Lawrence in November.
Stamford Police Sgt. Peter diSpagna said Lawrence's undoing began at a meeting he had with Darien detectives when the conversation turned to odd crimes that seemed unsolvable. He told Darien Lt. Ronald Bussell and another detective that he and his investigators were stumped by a diamond burglary. He explained that a Westover Road woman in North Stamford called police to tell them the $17,000 diamond in her ring was missing.
The woman told him she noticed her 1.5 karat diamond solitaire ring vanished Sept. 4 while an exterminator was working in the home. She was sure she left it on the night table in her bedroom.
She asked the exterminator, George Lawrence, if he had seen it and enlisted his help in looking for it, diSpagna said.
Lawrence found the ring behind the night table, but the woman couldn't figure out how it could have been lost there.
She also said the ring felt sticky when he handed it over, but was so pleased to find it that she immediately put it away, diSpagna said.
The wife brought the ring to the jeweler, who told them the stone was a fake, diSpagna said. The jeweler also told them it appeared the ring had been twisted, probably by someone using pliers to yank out the stone.
The Darien detectives could not believe what they were hearing, diSpagna said.
"Their mouths dropped open," diSpagna said.
Bussell said diSpagna's story came as a surprise because a Darien woman called just before summer complaining someone switched the $30,000 diamond in her ring.
At first, Bussell said detectives did not know what to think of the complaint. But a detective took the ring to a jeweler, who told them the stone was glass.
She knew the ring was in good condition just a few days before she called police on May 5. She mentioned to police that an exterminator had been to the house a few days earlier.
Police talked to the exterminator, Lawrence, who claimed not to know anything about the ring, Bussell said.
The detectives quickly confirmed the Guaranty Pest Elimination company was involved in both cases.
When diSpagna called his office to have someone look through the reports on the Westover Road theft, he confirmed Lawrence was the exterminator at that home, as well.
"There is nothing like networking," diSpagna said of the incident.
John Nickerson contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org