ST. PETERSBURG — The 2008 Rays Championship ring didn't have Scott A. Richardson's name on it, so when a pawn broker asked him how he got it, Richardson said it had been a payment for his extermination work.
Richardson was employed as an exterminator, but the ring, which R & W Pawn and Jewelry in Clearwater bought for $695, was stolen from a client's condominium, police said.
Its purchase helped tip police off to a crime spree that brought in as much as $15,000 in stolen jewelry, police said.
Richardson, 41, of Clearwater, was charged Friday with dealing in stolen property and grand theft. He remained in jail Monday evening.
On July 12, Richardson went on a service call for New Tech Pest Control. He arrived at a condominium complex in north St. Petersburg and was given a master key. Police did not disclose the name or address of the complex.
Robert Windheim, a sales manager for the Rays, lives there. Windheim was among 480 Rays players and staff who were given the 14k white gold rings, which feature the Ray's logo set against 48 diamonds, and a tiny engraving of the Rays' 2008 regular season record: "97-65."
Police said Richardson swiped the $3,600 ring from a bedroom dresser while Windheim was not home. Through a Ray's spokesman, Windheim declined to comment.
On July 14, Richardson walked into the pawnshop at 2007 Gulf to Bay Blvd. He had been there before. Walter Orkisz, co-owner of the pawn shop, said Richardson had sold jewelry and an outboard motor in the past. It was the first Rays American League championship ring that Orkisz' employees had ever seen. Richardson was believable.
"He came across as a clean-cut working person that just somehow came across a ring like that," said Orkisz. "With the bad economy out there, I'm sure some people don't have money to pay so they offer alternate payment."
Under state law, pawnshops are prohibited from accepting items they know are stolen, but they are also not required to ask a lot of questions. They must complete a form that records the sellers' thumbprint and signature, which is collected by police.
The transaction form allowed St. Petersburg police Detectives Ricardo Lopez and Kenneth Miller to connect the dots.
After Richardson was arrested Thursday, police say he told detectives he stole the ring and had taken valuables from other homes. Miller said Richardson sold R & W Pawn $15,000 worth of mostly high-end jewelry over a three-month period.
"He's a con guy," said Miller.
It's not the first time Richardson was accused of stealing from customers.
While employed by another company, Suncoast Pest Control, earlier this year, Richardson was accused of stealing from several customers, according to that company. He was fired in June. At the time of his arrest last week, Richardson was on probation for aggravated stalking.
The Rays ring remains at the pawnshop, which wants to be reimbursed for the money it paid Richardson. Miller said that because the ring is personalized, Windheim will most likely get his ring back through a court order.
"He really is the true victim," Orkisz said. "People don't really walk in with championship rings every day. I wish they did but they don't."