A Longboat Key maintenance man has been charged with stealing an $85,000 diamond ring and selling the stone to a Bradenton Beach jeweler.
Michael Artman, 51, Bradenton, is in the Manatee County jail facing charges of burglary, theft after trust and dealing-in/possessing stolen property after the diamond showed up in New York City.
Longboat Key Police say Artman confessed to the crime.
The LBK police investigation began when a woman living at Windward Bay condominium on Longboat Key reported Feb. 3 she was missing a diamond ring from her nightstand. An inspection by police revealed no sign of forced entry. The officer stated in his report he found no evidence in the woman’s condo.
It was when the victim remembered stopping to speak to a maintenance man — later identified as Artman — on the day of the theft that police became suspicious.
Artman was employed by Windward Bay for more than 17 years, but had been dismissed from his position, police reports state. But reports state it was common to see Artman on the grounds as he still did side-jobs for residents of the condos.
Police allege Artman used a key he kept from an old job to enter the woman’s apartment with the intent to steal. The report said Artman took the ring from the nightstand, but left other jewelry items, and relocked the condominium as he left.
After removing the largest diamond from the ring, police said Artman took it to Bridge Street Jewelers, 129 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, and offered it for sale.
The owners of the business, Brad and Kassy Smith, said Artman spent the past four years building a business relationship with them, buying and selling jewelry he said was left to him in his mother’s estate. When he showed up with the diamond, they were out of town, and they asked a jeweler working at the store to examine the stone.
Following that examination, Brad Smith said he purchased it for $6,000.
“I got the diamond, had it looked at and discovered it was natural — not enhanced — and probably worth around $30,000,” he said. “I sold the diamond to someone I’ve done business with for 25 years, and he sold it to another guy. It changed hands probably four times in three days.” The stolen diamond ended up in New York (city), according to Brad Smith.
Smith said he is out the money he paid to Artman.
“He wanted the $6,000 in six different checks of $1,000,” Smith said. “He said he didn’t want his ex (wife) to track the money, so he was going to cash it one month at a time, to pay his rent. But then he cashed them all at the same time, three days later.
“We’re the ones who got hurt, our reputation, too. I would have never done it if I had known it was stolen. I lost money,” Brad Smith said. He said he didn’t want to be associated with the criminal aspect due to their purchase of the jewel.
Kassy Smith said Bridge Street Jewelers does not normally purchase jewelry from customers, but she and her husband believed Artman because their past business dealings presented no problems.
“We are very much victims in this crime. There was a trust factor. In four years, you’d think something would come up,” she said.
“We 100 percent cooperated with police — gave them evidence.… If it wasn’t for us, he would have never got caught.”
She said now that the news about the arrest is public, other people who had missing jewels at Windward Bay are coming into Bridge Street Jewelers, asking if the store has them.
Smith said their store made no other stolen jewelry purchases and she has been unable to help any other victims.
“We have no record of stolen items — nothing matches up (to our records). He must have been selling somewhere else,” she said of the other missing items.
Police said Artman admitted taking 10-15 items of jewelry over a period of years, and the investigation continues.
Artman is being held in jail on a bond of $22,500.