To catch a thief: How a skilled NYPD detective took down a notorious international jewelry thief

NYPD detective who arrested international jewelry thief
NYPD detective Scott Gomez of the Major Case Squad tracked down an international jewelry thief proficient in sleight-of-hand heists.
Photo by Dean Moses with inserts from NYPD and Nassau County Police

Wanted in Korea as a major jewelry thief, 49-year-old Yaorong Wan stepped inside the iconic Tiffany & Co. jewelry store in Midtown in March and allegedly performed another daring, sleight-of-hand caper.

The store later reported the theft to the NYPD, and the Major Case Squad stepped in. Soon, Detective Scott Gomez of the squad realized he was on the hunt for a thief that Hollywood screenwriters generally concoct for summer blockbusters.

Wan was at large for pilfering a $330,000 diamond in Korea in 2018, and other treasures around the world, including in the U.S. But the Tiffany caper would prove to be his downfall, and Gomez’s work helped bring Wan to justice. 

The downfall began with that March 4 visit to Tiffany’s, at 610 5th Ave. Wan allegedly approached a sales clerk and explained he was interested in purchasing diamond rings for a client in China.

“He was looking at a 2.0 carat diamond and he was looking at another 2.5 carat diamond, he was holding them both in his hand. He then asked to see a 3.3 carat diamond, which was valued at about $250,000. He had all three diamonds in his hand, and he was able to, with sleight of hand, switch the diamond ring with the fake one,” Gomez told amNewYork Metro. “He gave them back to the salesclerk and told her that he was going to step outside and call the person he was buying it for. He stepped outside, walked away, and never came back.”

49-year Yaorong Wan seen on store video camera.

The process was so smooth that Tiffany & Co. staff did not immediately realize anything was out of place. Employees only realized the theft happened during their week-end inventory check, discovering that the diamond did not have a serial number, and was actually a fake.

Eight days later, March 12, Wan performed a similar heist at Cartier located at 20 Hudson Yards. This time, he handled multiple items and palmed one of the luxury watches before returning the others.

It soon became clear that the NYPD was dealing with a major jeweler thief. Before striking in the city, police learned that Wan allegedly stole items in Beverly Hills on Jan. 16 and then a watch in Nassau County on April 19. On March 20, he struck in Miami, making off with diamond rings and watches.

“If you watch him engage in conversation, he really gets the store clerk looking at him and looking at his eyes and focused on making a sale,” Gomez explained. “He was very, very good at concealing an item and not even putting it in a pocket, he would hold it in the bottom portion of his hand.”

In each case, Wan would allegedly approach an Asian female working in the store and speak with them in English before switching to Mandarin. Posing as a Chinese businessman, Wan would tell workers that he was interested in buying the expensive property for a client in China before using his skills to sneak the products out.

Police believe Wan entered the country illegally and was identified with the help of Border Patrol. 

Detective Scott Gomez points to a ring Yaorong Wan allegedly stole. Photo by Dean Moses

“You can tell he’s a career criminal, he’s probably been practicing this for a very, very long time,” Gomez noted.

Once identified, Gomez worked with Border Patrol to get information on a Queens address that Wan provided at the time of entry into the country.

In conjunction with police in Nassau County, the NYPD found Wan’s vehicle and conducted surveillance until they gained enough evidence to obtain a search warrant of the home where he resided.

During the joint operation, police not only recovered several stolen watches, but also fake rings similar to the one he used at Tiffany & Co. Police took Wan into custody.

“He immediately said ‘I don’t speak English,’ which we know is a lie because when he first approaches the store clerks he does speak English,” Gomez recalled. “I did say it was up, you are caught and showed him a photo and he said ‘lawyer, lawyer.'”

49-year Yaorong Wan seen on store video camera. 

Amazingly, despite being accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of items, Wan was let go on supervised release in New York City. However, he was immediately re-arrested in Nassau County, and remains locked up there on $500,000 bond.

Wan also faces prosecution in several other states where he has committed similar crimes.

While surprised to discover just how big the case became, Gomez credits his fellow detectives and Sgt. Jeffrey Raymond of the Nassau County Major Case Squad for the success of the investigation.

“We were like, well, we might have something bigger here. The fact that this one guy was doing it by himself up and down the East Coast, it’s pretty interesting. But it’s not just me, it’s a team effort,” Gomez said.

“It’s not just me, it’s a team effort,” Gomez said.Photo by Dean Moses