Westmoreland County interior decorator allegedly stole $32K in jewelry from clients' homes
A well-known Westmoreland County interior decorator was arraigned Friday on criminal charges for allegedly stealing jewelry worth more than $32,000 from clients' homes for at least 15 years and selling it on the internet or in pawn shops, state police said.
Jane Clark, 61, owner of Wallpapering by Jane, based in her Ligonier Township home, was charged by state police in Greensburg with counts of theft, theft by deception and receiving stolen property.
“The current approximate total value of the jewelry stolen by Jane Clark while conducting business as ‘Wallpapering by Jane' is $32,333,” Trooper Brandon Yeager said.
During her arraignment at Hempfield District Judge Mark Mansour's office, Clark told visiting senior District Judge Herb Mitchell that she has been in the wallpapering-interior painting business for three decades.
Mitchell ordered that Clark be held in the county jail after she failed to post $35,000 bond.
She declined to speak to reporters as she was led from Mansour's office.
Clark's arrest was the result of a six-month investigation by Yeager that started Sept. 6 when Claudia Narcisi of Hempfield reported that she had hired Clark to paint a bedroom at her Donatello Drive home and discovered jewelry was missing.
“Narcisi then recalled that she had hired Wallpapering by Jane approximately one year earlier, around October 2016 ... and had jewelry stolen,” Yeager said.
Later in September, Narcisi provided state police with photographs from a precious metals website on which two rings and two necklaces that were stolen from her home were sold, according to court documents.
Police subsequently received similar reports from Gloria A. DeFabo of Unity Township, who reported her mother had jewelry stolen in 2017 after hiring Clark.
When a relative of DeFabo called Clark to complain about the thefts, the items were returned, Yeager said.
“Two days after (the relative) contacted Clark and left a voicemail message, DeFabo's stolen jewelry had been returned. The stolen jewelry had been placed inside of a plastic bag and left on DeFabo's front porch,” Yeager reported in an affidavit.
In January, Yeager traced some of the stolen jewelry that Clark allegedly tried to sell to Treasure Hunt in Monroeville, according to court papers.
There, Clark allegedly attempted to sell a state policeman's badge and class ring from the state police academy from former state police Lt. Jacob P. Zellie, who retired in 1993. Yeager said he was able to trace the items through engravings on them.
“Zellie reported he had hired ‘Wallpapering by Jane' in May 2016 to paint a room in his residence in Hempfield Township. Zellie had no idea his jewelry had been stolen,” Yeager reported.
Yeager said Zellie later telephoned him and said his Marine Corps class ring also was missing. Yeager said he was able to determine that Clark had sold that ring through a Pittsburgh pawn shop, The Gold Buyers, in December 2016.
Yeager alleges in court documents that when he called Clark in January to interview her, “she reported she had nothing to do with these thefts.”
“I then asked Clark how she obtained the Pennsylvania State Police ring that she sold on Dec. 29, 2017. Clark advised me that she had inherited an estate of her uncle's and he was on the job,” Yeager said in court documents.
Yeager said Clark refused to disclose her uncle's name and ended the conversation.
On Jan. 31, Yeager obtained a search warrant for Clark's home on Darlington Road and seized about 100 pieces of jewelry “including several items that were hidden inside the residence.”
North Huntingdon police provided Yeager with information that Rhonda Hallas, a township resident, hired Clark in 2002 to paint the interior of her home. After Clark finished, Hallas reported a $7,500 diamond ring was missing, Yeager said.
“After Clark was interviewed by township police Detective Bill Henderson, Clark returned the stolen ring,” Yeager wrote.
“Based on this investigation, I learned that Clark made it a common practice to return jewelry that she had stolen from the victims after the victims realized the jewelry had been stolen,” Yeager said.
Clark told Mitchell that she intends to hire a private attorney. Her preliminary hearing is March 23 before Mansour.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860.