Former La Jolla jewelry shop owner arrested, charged with grand theft, embezzlement
The subject of a 2014 La Jolla Light investigation into consignment stores, Karl Winchell of Winchell Jewelry Designs, was arrested Oct. 7 and charged with grand theft and merchant embezzlement, said detective sergeant Meryl Bernstein with San Diego Police’s Northern Division, who led the investigation.
Winchell closed his shop on Wall Street in La Jolla in June, after SDPD began looking into his business practices, which included claims he scammed customers of thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash.
Bernstein said Winchell was arrested at his home near San Diego State University, where she recovered 47 pieces of jewelry matching those reported as stolen or misappropriated by at least five of his victims.
“A good 27 to 30 of those 47 pieces I can match up with victims,” Bernstein said, noting that she recovered about $40,000 in evidence from Winchell’s home.
Winchell was released on bail, and the case has been sent to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Division for prosecution.
Bernstein said the district attorney’s office could pursue charges of elder abuse.
“Some of my victims are over 65 years old,” she said. “What I’m doing right now is just contacting my victims and sending them pictures and trying to make sure that they can identify (which pieces belong to them),” she said. “He’s out now, but at least he’s being held accountable. I think the victims are very happy at this point.”
One of Winchell’s victims, Del Cerro resident Jim Hall, noted that four months after receiving a small claims court judgment against Winchell for $10,0000 (in April) he was finally paid, plus $600 in interest and court fees.
“We had to go back to court again, and a judge threatened him with going to jail,” said Hall, who gave Winchell a ring to sell more than 17 months ago, which was never returned.
“I was actually happier with his arrest than with being paid $10,000,” Hall added. “My whole thing when I started this was … that I wanted it to stop so there wouldn’t be more victims.”