Man sentenced in theft ring that sold stolen jewels to stores on Philadelphia’s Jewelers’ Row

From May 2018 through February 2020, Duanne Pierce led a jewelry theft ring which stole from stores around the country, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Storefronts on Jewelers Row.

File photo: Pedestrians walk past jewelry stores that are tenants of five buildings proposed for demolition Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, in the Jewelers' Row diamond district of Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)

A Philadelphia man has been sentenced to a little more than six years in prison for leading a theft ring that targeted 12 jewelry stores across the country and sold the jewels back to stores on Jewelers’ Row in Center City.

From May 2018 through February 2020, Duanne Pierce, 60, led a theft ring with seven other people, often stealing from multiple stores in a single day, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Investigators say the criminal group did this to reduce the likelihood of being caught because it presented challenges to law enforcement investigating the out-of-state perpetrators.

Pierce was found guilty of participating in 11 thefts, and his role was to steal jewelry such as diamond rings and gold chains. He would take them from a display case or from the employee-only area of a store, while the others would distract sales associates. He then resold the stolen jewelry to local jewelers in Philadelphia.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In March 2022, a federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment charging Duanne Pierce and co-defendants Charles Tillery, Janel Pierce, Yolanda Fife, David Tillery, Telfa Wills, and Clifton Fleming with conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines, and interstate transportation of stolen property and aiding and abetting. All of the defendants plead guilty.

“Duanne Pierce and his co-defendants were both prolific and strategic in their thefts, sometimes targeting multiple jewelry stores in the same day,” FBI Agent Jacqueline Maguire said in a release. “Then they’d move on to a different city and do it again, hauling the stolen loot back to Philly to resell. Through the investigative efforts of the FBI and numerous law enforcement partners across the country, this crew has been dismantled and is being held accountable for their crimes. For his leadership role in the conspiracy, Pierce will now spend years in federal prison.”

The total retail value of the stolen jewelry was $612,670.59.

Pierce was sentenced to 77 months’ imprisonment, 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $606,394.60 in restitution for the various charges.

The case was investigated by multiple agencies including the FBI, and police departments in Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, and Ohio.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal