A former employee of a Jackson jewelry store pleaded guilty Wednesday to robbing the store in the city’s largest jewelry heist, according to a release from the Jackson Police Department.
Lee Triplett, 31, of Jackson, entered a guilty plea Wednesday in Madison County Circuit Court, Division III, in the 2011 robbery of Little’s Jewelers, located at 1143 Vann Drive. He was sentenced to six years for robbery and six years each on two counts of kidnapping. Those sentences will run consecutively for a total effective sentence of 18 years in prison, the release said.
Triplett was allowed to remain free on $200,000 bond and must report to the Madison County Jail on Jan. 3 to begin serving his sentence, the release said. From there, he will be transferred to the Tennessee Department of Correction and will be eligible for release after serving 35 percent of his sentence.
The release said Triplett was also ordered by the court to pay $57,443.01 in restitution to Little’s Jewelers. This amount was Triplett’s portion, after factoring an equal amount of restitution that co-defendant, James Randle, will be responsible for paying, an insurance claim paid to Little’s Jeweler and $285,113.99 worth of jewelry that Jackson police recovered in Ft. Worth, Texas, in April of this year.
Randle, 30, of Memphis, remains in custody, since June 2011, at the Madison County Jail on $250,000 bond. His next scheduled court date is Jan. 9.
The release said around 10 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2011, Jackson police received a call of a robbery at Little’s Jewelers. Officers responded and learned that an unidentified man had entered the business, struck an employee in the head with a handgun and then forced the employee, along with two others, into a restroom. The intruder secured the restroom door from the outside with duct tape, locking them inside. He then took money from the register as well as a substantial amount of jewelry from the display cases and a safe.
About three months later, investigators received information that Triplett, who was one of the jewelry store employees at the time of the robbery, was in possession of items stolen in the heist, and he was in the Dallas, Texas area, the release said.
Jackson police investigators traveled to Texas to follow-up on that lead, the release said. With the assistance of the Texas Rangers, two pieces of stolen jewelry were recovered and brought back to Jackson. On May 12, 2011, Triplett was arrested in Jackson and was released on $200,000 bond on Nov. 18, 2011.
The release said investigators continued to develop the case, which determined that Triplett and his friend Randle conspired and robbed Little’s Jewelers. Triplett was locked in the bathroom during the robbery to give the appearance that he was not involved
In March of this year, investigators learned that stolen merchandise was being kept in a storage facility in Texas and the rental fee was being paid by Randle’s family. Jackson investigators again called on Texas authorities for assistance, the release said. The Rangers executed a search warrant at the storage facility and recovered 64 items of jewelry valued at over $285,000.
The release said Jackson investigators traveled to Texas, recovered the items, and brought them back. Once the case is fully adjudicated, the Jackson Police Department will return the stolen jewelry to the rightful owner.