Jewelry store manager faces theft charges

An Augusta diamond store manager suspected of stealing more than $100,000 worth of jewelry over the past eight months has been arrested.

Authorities believe Mary Mainwaring Bevell, 29, stole jewelry from Helzburg Diamonds at Augusta Mall and resold the pieces to other local jewelers. Arrested Tuesday in Aiken, Ms. Bevell is awaiting extradition to Richmond County on two counts of criminal damage to property and will be charged with jewelry theft when she is returned, authorities said.

Aaron Hannsz, a property crimes investigator with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, said the missing jewelry came to the attention of the store's loss prevention department after an audit in November. Since then, he has identified at least three area jewelers who bought pieces from Ms. Bevell. The jewelers were unaware that the merchandise was stolen, Investigator Hannsz said.

"We can't say for sure all of it she sold is theirs, but quite a bit of it matches exactly," he said.

On 14 occasions between April and November, Ms. Bevell sold jewelry -- which she cut up into smaller pieces as "scrap" -- to Windsor Jewelers on Washington Road, according to Investigator Hannsz. She was paid more than $10,000 for the items. She also cut up rings, necklaces and other items then sold them to Gold Buddy on Bobby Jones Expressway in Columbia County for $6,000 and Jeweler's Loupe on Richland Avenue West in Aiken for $1,550.

In an effort to prevent others from noticing her theft, Investigator Hannsz said, Ms. Bevell would damage other jewelry to cover up the missing pieces. Authorities believe she did this during an inventory check in October, in which they found several pieces of jewelry damaged beyond repair.

"The evidence shows that on the 31st of October she damaged 35 pieces of jewelry with a value of over $35,000 in order to cover up the missing inventory," he said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.