Globe-trotting jewelry thief finally caught after ‘Oceans 11’ style diamond ring heist in New York

The arrest ended Wan’s years-long criminal career took him from South Korea to Beverly Hills, police say

Martha McHardy
Tuesday 07 May 2024 21:04 BST
Yaorong Wan, 49, of Queens, was arrested in Manhattan after a string of jewelry thefts
Yaorong Wan, 49, of Queens, was arrested in Manhattan after a string of jewelry thefts (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office )

A globe-trotting jewelry thief has been arrested after an Oceans-11 style diamond ring heist in New York City.

Yaorong Wan, 49, was arrested in Queens on Friday after he allegedly stole $300,000 worth of rings from Cartier and Tiffany stores in Manhattan.

The arrest ended Wan’s years-long criminal career, which took him half way around the globe, from South Korea to Beverly Hills, according to The New York Post.

His string of thefts began in September 2018 when he stole a $330,000 diamond ring from a Tiffany’s store in Seoul, the criminal complaint stated. Last December he allegedly stole a $48,000 diamond ring and a $10,000 watch from a Cartier store in Beverly Hills, the New York Post said.

Wan struck again in New York this March, stealing a $255,000 diamond ring from Tiffany’s. Court documents allege that he managed to switch the diamond ring with another band without the shop assistant noticing after he entered the store at 3pm on 4 March, and asked the woman behind the counter about several pieces of jewellery.

The assistant laid out some pieces of jewelry, and Wan allegedly picked up the $255,000 ring, and looked it over before leaving the store, a criminal complaint said. Only the ring he had handed back to the assistant was not the same one that the employee handed him, the store later discovered.

Wan had replaced the diamond ring with a counterfeit cubic zirconia stone mounted on 18-carat white gold, the complaint said.

Yaorong Wan, 49, of Queens, was arrested in Manhattan after a string of jewelry thefts
Yaorong Wan, 49, of Queens, was arrested in Manhattan after a string of jewelry thefts (Manhattan District Attorney’s Office )

When investigators watched surveillance footage from that day, they saw the defendant examine the original ring - a natural diamond mounted on engraved platinum - then allegedly slip it into his palm in a sleight-of-hand, before offloading the fake.

Store workers said they photographed the fake the following day and noticed it did not have any of the engravings or hallmarks on it.

Wan allegedly pulled off a similar trick at a Cartier store in New York eight days later. Wan allegedly walked in about 1:30 pm and asked to look at two engagement rings and two watches, investigators said. The employee handed him the diamond rings, then got distracted, according to the complaint.

Wan allegedly handed back one of the rings, but slipped the other, valued at about $25,000, into his pocket before leaving. He then went to Miami, the New York Post reported, where he allegedly stole a $16,000 watch from a Cartier store on 24 March.

The criminal complaint alleges that Wan also stole two watches, worth a combined $17,000, from the Hermes store at the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as well as a watch from London Jewelers in Manhasset, Long Island last month.

In the Long Island case, investigators say Wan was browsing the watches when he slid a Chopard watch into his left jacket pocket. He then strolled past the registers and out the door, according to the complaint.

When he was arrested, Wan allegedly had three watches that he stole in Manhasset and New Jersey, as well as the fake stones he used to swap with the legitimate pieces, according to police.

He pleaded not guilty at his Saturday arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court, according to online court records.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in