HIBBING — An employee of Guardian Angels Health & Rehabilitation Center was arrested and charged with theft and financial exploitation in St. Louis County Court earlier this week.
Terri K. Stephens, 53, of Nashwauk, now faces two felony counts of theft for taking and pawning jewelry totaling more than $1,000 from various residents of Guardian Angels without the owner’s consent. She is also charged with a felony count of financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
Law enforcement cracked the case with the assistance of a local pawn operation.
Over the past year, the Hibbing Police Department (HPD) has received several reports of theft of jewelry from Guardian Angels. The reports were coming from staff on behalf of residents claiming they were missing jewelry.
Last June, a resident filed a report stating that she was missing a gold rope chain necklace, a gold male wedding band and a gold diving duck charm.
In mid-March, a resident reported that she was missing a gold ring with rubies and a second silver ring from Finland. Just days later, a resident went on record that $130 was taken from a room.
In mid-April, another resident said her ring was stolen.
An officer then contacted the Gold Guys to see if any transactions there matched the descriptions of what was reported missing. The business and law enforcement were able to match up the sale of items from a May 2013 report.
The transaction came back to Stephens, who had been to the Gold Guys several times selling various amounts of jewelry, according to court records. She had gone there in mid-April and received more than $100 for various jewelry items, one which was later identified as a ring that was taken from Guardian Angels.
When interrogated by police, Stephens admitted that she had been taking items from residents, including a ring and a necklace that she had sold at the Gold Guys and received cash.
She told officers that the last time she had taken something was just last week when she removed a ring from a resident’s hand while she was awake and replaced it with “a junk ring from her own home,” according to court records.
Stephens stated she had also taken items a week prior to that, but was unsure from which resident they were taken from. She also admitted to taking and pawning the necklace, gold ring and duck charm that were reported almost a year ago.
Stephens is no longer employed at Guardian Angels, according to Administrator Geoffrey Ryan. He said staff there has been cooperating with the HPD throughout the investigation as well as reporting the incidents to the Office of Health Facility Complaints.
“We appreciate the work of the Hibbing Police Department and are glad they took this seriously,” said Ryan. “We are very pleased with the work they did in the investigation, and we’re hoping to bring this to a close.”
He said he has not personally spoken with the residents who reclaimed their stolen items, but surmised that they were happy to have their items returned.
The total value of the items taken and pawned by Stephens are believed to exceed $1,000, as some items were family heirlooms dating back to 1919, according to court records.
Stephens was assigned a public defender and granted release with conditions by Judge David E. Ackerson.
Her next court appearance is set for Thursday, May 8.