Jeweler arrested on theft charges

HOUSTON The items customers dropped off were valuable to them -- in some cases monetarily, in others sentimentally. While investigators say some of the jewelry is gone forever, they also recovered a lot more and now they are asking the owners to come forward and claim it.

Beth Shaw's 90-year-old father John left his 1938 pocket watch at the Memorial area jewelry store last spring for repair.

Shaw said, "He was the first to graduate from college, it was a big deal. It was engraved and it meant a lot to him."

It was a gift from his father. He checked on the progress of the repair. Beth checked on it the last time she stopped by Heritage Jewelers.

She recalled, "It just appeared the store was empty and they couldn't find him."

Shaw was not alone. Dozens of customers contacted police searching for everything from rings to watches. But the man who ran Heritage Jewelers, Gerald Milici, was nowhere to be found.

A grand jury indicted Milici last fall on charges of theft and theft from the elderly, but police weren't able to find him until a tip led them to southeast Harris County.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Harry Lawrence said, "(We're) very relieved because without him we couldn't have proceeded with any prosecution."

Court records list missing items from Rolex watches to diamond bracelets totaling tens of thousands of dollars. During the investigation police recovered a bag of jewelry.

Lawrence said, "In this case it is unusual and very fortunate that we were able to recover some of the property."

Now they are looking for the owners, hoping they can return the jewelry like they did for Beth Shaw.

"There's quite a few people who probably don't know that their jewelry is somewhere in evidence and they can come identify it," Shaw said.

That pocket watch is now back with the family it belongs to, even though Beth's 90-year-old father John didn't live to see that day.

"The rest of the family is excited and he is probably smiling down on us right now," she said.

But Beth can't forget her father's reaction when he thought his most prized possession was gone.

She said, "My father was a sweet little man and I feel like he took advantage of his sentiments."

If convicted, Milici faces two to twelve years behind bars and a fine. His attorney Stanley Schneider says neither he nor his client have any comment on the charges at this time.

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