DADE CITY — The owners of Kiefer Village Jewels considered Tara Lynne Jarema part of the family.
She worked there about four years as a bookkeeper and was trusted with making the nightly cash deposits after she left work.
Over the last few months, though, some of that money never made it to the bank, and this week Jarema, 43, went to jail accused of stealing it.
The total so far: $15,589.
"We're supposed to go back (in our records) and just try to find where this stops, and we haven't found that yet," David Hevia said Friday. He owns the business with his wife, Wendy.
Discrepancies in the books first surfaced last week, when another bookkeeper began helping Jarema get caught up on making deposit entries, Hevia said. That bookkeeper — who is close friends with Jarema — noticed that some of the amounts weren't what they should have been.
She approached Hevia, who told her to see if there were more errors. When she found more, the two of them questioned Jarema, who "started coming up with excuses that were really not reasonable answers," Hevia said.
That's when he called Dade City police.
Jarema's arrest report says she admitted taking the money for "family needs." Hevia said the explanation she gave him was that she sometimes forgot to stop by the bank to make the deposits. Then, if it was a weekend and she needed cash, she dipped into the deposit with the intention of paying it back.
It was always just a few dollars at a time.
"We had a small loophole — we weren't double-checking someone we trusted," Hevia said. "She tried to fly under the radar with the small amounts she was taking."
He emphasized that the store's inventory — and customers' jewelry in particular — was never at risk. He said when customers bring in their jewelry for repairs or cleaning, there's a meticulous process that's always followed. The pieces are photographed and scanned in and out, he said.
Kiefer Village Jewels runs a second store in Land O'Lakes and a gold-buying booth at Wiregrass mall.
Jarema, who lives in Brooksville and is married with five children, faces a charge of grand theft. She was released from the Pasco County jail early Friday.
"I hope that she will admit to everything that she's done, for her own sake," Hevia said. "And then I would be looking for restitution for it as quickly as possible.
"I'm not wishing her to miss years of her children's life to be in prison. Hopefully, she can do the right thing and be a mother for her kids."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.