06 May 2009

Tambunting's Basement Blings

Teresa Tambunting
A Filipina is making waves abroad for the wrong reason and it netted her US$ 12 million worth of gold and jewelries. Unfortunately, she may not enjoy the quarter-ton treasure trove of raw precious stones that she hoarded in buckets in the basement of her stony home if she is proven guilty of the crime.

Teresa Tambunting, a Scarsdale mom told relatives in 2008 Christmas dinner that she was terrified of the recession. This terror was the reason why she stole US$ 12 million worth of blings from her job at a Queens jewelry store and stashed them in the basement of her home.

In one interview, Tambunting's husband, Edgardo, who works at Cantor Fitzgerald, complained that 2008 hit them hard. Who wasn't? But does this justify stealing millions just to appease one's psychotic paranoia.

"This recession is hurting everybody. I know they hit a rough patch," said nephew Gregorio Perez, 28. "I was there at Christmas. They were saying this was one of their worst years, but this year is [going to be] much better," he added. At least one member of the family showed symptoms of sanity in these trying times.

Tambunting, 50, is the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. She and her husband also have three teenage kids. It is not yet certain if they also had any knowledge about the six-year operation she adopted in building the secret fortune by slipping small pieces of gold and jewelry in the lining of her purse.

It was only in February this year, when her bosses at Jacmel Jewelry discovered during an audit that US$ 12 million worth of merchandise and gold chunks were missing from the vault. As a vault manager since 1991, Tambunting was the primary suspect. But she was caught only after she came to work dragging 80 pounds of fine gold and jewelry in a rolling suitcase - confessing to one of her bosses that she "had to steal it." The rest of the 500-pound stash was later returned to the company from her home.

Tambunting was arraigned on grand larceny charges last 6 May 2009 and released on US$ 100,000 bail, which she can easily afford after earning US$ 165,000 a year.

According to some reports, Tambunting is considering a defense that includes a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. She must be happy knowing that the prosecutors could be in trouble by insulting their intelligence with this claim.

This story is a prime example of why it is sometimes better to earn just enough to sustain the daily requirements of a family instead of the six-figure salary. Just as well that this happened in the US, because if she behaved like this in the Philippines, she only had to attend a series of congressional hearings for several years and wait until a new President is elected that can pardon her crime in exchange for something.

Read more about this story from the NY Daily News and NY Post.