Johnson County woman working to recover more than $1 million worth of stolen jewelry

OLATHE, Kan. -- A Johnson County business owner says she's been robbed, and now, she's working to recover the stolen goods, which she said total more than $1 million.

It's a lot of money, but Mary Ann Gerber said it's the violation of privacy that hurts the most.

Gerber, who owns a business in Johnson County, said she'd collected those items over a 30-year period. Her collection has 80 items not accounted for, and she said a former employee stole them a few at a time over eight year.

She first noticed the theft three months ago when, for a moment, she thought she'd misplaced a 4-karat diamond ring. It was then she realized the series of thefts had taken place, and Gerber said she terminated that employee.

"It makes me sick," Gerber told FOX4 on Thursday.

Gerber said she never dreamed that she'd been ripped off. The thief had helped themselves to expensive items from her home, including Rolex watches, one of which cost nearly $40,000. The report filed with Johnson County Sheriff's detectives also lists one-of-a-kind diamond rings and rare coins.

Gerber said the ex-employee hocked 80 rare items for cash, mostly at local pawn shops.

"It scared me," she said.

Now, Gerber and her friends are visiting every pawn shop in the area, trying to recover the collection, a few expensive pieces at a time. In some cases, Gerber said she's having to repurchase the items since pawn shop owners can't release the items at a financial loss.

"It's like an invasion of your privacy, which is completely unnecessary," Gerber said Thursday. "It makes you feel sick to your stomach, lost, like, why? What did I do? You want to blame yourself, but you can't blame yourself."

Zoe Harrington, owner at Overland Park's Noble House Jewelers, made many of the missing pieces for Gerber. She's one of the people accompanying Gerber on her recovery mission.

"(Gerber) had a panther bracelet that was worth about $60,000 in a retail store," Harrington said. "She paid maybe $30,000 for that. We found it at a pawn shop for $1,900."

When thefts like this happen, it leaves reputable pawn shop owners in a tough spot. Brian Anderson operates Olathe Trading Post, where he's worked in the pawn business for 25 years. He said he asks theft victims to reimburse him for what he paid the seller for each item. Anderson said, in turn, those owners can ask a judge for restitution once their case goes to trial.

Anderson recommends property owners keep record of the things they value, recording serial numbers and retaining photos of their stuff.

"Too often we have people call up and say they had an iPad stolen. We ask, 'What were the serial numbers?' They say, 'I don't know,'" Anderson said. "Without serial numbers, it's tough."

Gerber said she'd appreciate any tips from the public as to the whereabouts of her stolen jewelry, a small amount of which has been recovered. If you can help law enforcement in this case, please call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

"Call the TV station. I just want my stuff back," Gerber said.