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Victims disappointed in light sentences in theft cases

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of May 2, 2013)

The victims in two cases involving thefts of valuable antiques and jewelry from their homes are disappointed in the sentences the defendants received.

In one case, defendant Heather Berg received 24 months of probation after stealing thousands of dollars in jewelry from her Vero Beach neighbor Jill Whitmore.

“I had inherited that jewelry from my grandparents and it was my children’s nest egg,” said Whitmore. “Heather betrayed our family and left us with no security.”

Berg sold most of the jewelry to Sebastian Antique owners Mark and Betty Karpinski, who received a misdemeanor conviction and probation in another case for buying jewelry and antiques without requiring the legally mandated identification from sellers.

The Karpinskis also bought valuable stolen antiques – including letters signed by Aaron Burr – from alleged thief Carole Ellis, whose fingerprints were found in two barrier island homes that were robbed last June. 

“If it weren’t so easy for thieves to sell stolen property to people like the Karpinskis, they probably wouldn’t be breaking into homes and taking things,” said Leslie Abbott, whose home in Pebble Bay on the barrier island was robbed of thousands of dollars' worth of antiques, including the Burr letters.

As part of their plea deal the Karpinskis paid about $1,200 in fines and court costs.

Berg will have to pay restitution for the jewelry she stole but that amount has yet to be decided.

“Unfortunately, what Heather pays probably won’t come close to the value of what she stole from me,” said Whitmore.

Abbott, too, is disappointed over what she considers “the light hand slap the Karpinskis got:  “Their loss is so much smaller than ours,” she said.