A retired university professor has been accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of jewels after sneaking into wealthy circles along the East Coast, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Lawrence Gray, 79, was allegedly involved in the thefts of seven pieces of luxury and antique jewelry, which he then sold for $45,000 through a New York City-based auction house, Manhattan prosecutors said.
Gray, who taught at John Cabot University in Rome until his retirement in 2011, voluntarily turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday morning, according to his defense attorney.
Prosecutors claimed Gray mailed the seven stolen pieces – including a gold, silver and diamond pendant brooch, earrings and a tin – made by Italian jewelry company Buccellati between 2016 and 2018.
The other valuables included a Van Cleef & Arpels ring and a 19th-century English pocket watch that Gray allegedly fraudulently sold through Doyle Auctioneers and Appraisers on the Upper East Side, the prosecutor’s office said.
Some of the loot appears to have been stolen from wealthy owners in Georgetown and Newport, Rhode Island an article published in the Washington Post last year.
According to a civil lawsuit, Gray used the connections of a former lover, the late Jacqueline Quillen, to infiltrate many social circles and snatch the pricey pieces from right under the noses of owners, the report said.
The lawsuit was filed by Quillen’s child, Parker Quillen, in Superior Court in Washington, DC. It details how art, cash and jewels – including a $17,000 diamond ring, a $10,000 Patek Philippe watch and $4,700 diamond earrings – have allegedly gone missing nine times , when Gray was a guest at the homes of Jacqueline Quillen and her friends.
The former political science professor, who lives in the DC area, appeared before the Manhattan Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, limping on a cane but otherwise dressed smartly: khakis, a navy blazer, shirt and tie.
He was charged with grand larceny, possession of stolen property and fraud – and was released without bail on condition that he surrender his passport.
“The defendant is alleged to have repeatedly sold stolen jewelry for personal gain,” District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement after the hearing.
“New York’s status as a global center for auction houses is diminished when goods are sold illegally. We will continue to ensure that all transactions in the market – regardless of the item – are conducted fairly and in accordance with the law,” the statement said.
Gray also faces larceny charges in Rhode Island, according to the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.
“He didn’t do it,” his attorney Christopher Zampogna said after the hearing. “Based on my previous knowledge.”
Gray’s next hearing in the Manhattan case was scheduled for October 31.