A jeweler in Irvine was arrested Thursday in connection with stealing several wedding and engagement rings he was hired to clean, police said.
Daniel Cervantes, 27, is suspected of seven counts of grand theft in connection with jewelry stolen from at least four of his clients while operating under various business names, including Diamonds are Forever and Cervantes Jewelers, according to a statement from the Irvine Police Department. Altogether, the stolen rings are valued at more than $40,000, officers said.
One case involved an heirloom 2-carat platinum ring Cervantes was asked to polish for a friend and customer in preparation for a marriage proposal, authorities said. Cervantes allegedly never returned the ring, which police said had been passed down for generations.
Another victim purchased a ring from Cervantes, returned it to him for appraisal and never saw it again, according to Irvine police.
All of Cervantes' victims were referred to him by friends or had a personal relationship with him, authorities said, and in each case victims' weddings were delayed due to the missing rings.
Nicole Sarber and Julio Cuellar told KTLA they had been dating for three years when Cuellar asked Sarber's family's blessing to propose to her, and they gave him an heirloom ring – which disappeared after he took it to Cervantes for polishing. Cuellar said he had known Cervantes for about five years and left the ring with him at his apartment.
Sarber described being robbed of a moment she had idealized her whole life.
"I had come home from a vacation, and he came home and he was telling me, ‘I want your hand in marriage, I really want to spend the rest of my life with you,’" she recalled. "And I’m happy as can be about what’s about to happen and he’s having to break the news of Daniel Cervantes stealing the engagement ring."
When prompted to return the jewelry, Cervantes would make excuses about why that wasn't possible, both police and Cuellar said.
"He’s like, ‘I’ll drive to you next week,’" Cuellar told KTLA. "And then next week turns to next week, next week turns to next week, and next week turns to where we’re at now."
Cervantes has lived in Irvine and Santa Ana; he listed illegitimate business addresses in both cities, according to officers.
Cervantes did not reveal the whereabouts of the stolen items when he was arrested. Anyone with information on the items or who believes they are a victim can contact Irvine Police Detective Kristi Valentine at 949-724-7188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.