The Kate Spade purse that Nameeta Richard found for sale on Craigslist looked surprisingly similar to the one stolen from the back of her 2013 Mercedes Benz SUV earlier this year in Northwest Portland.

Richard had gone to a Pilates class at her gym Feb. 19 and left her diamond engagement ring and wedding band inside her purse in her car, police said. When she returned to her car, she found a window busted and her purse gone.

Portland Detective Travis Fields responded to the Craigslist ad that Richard had found and spoke with the seller, Nicolette Harrelson.

Harrelson, according to court reports, offered to sell the purse to Fields for $130. They agreed to meet at Lloyd Center Mall. Harrelson told him to look for her distinctive “red and black hair.”

That encounter helped the detective identify a suspected car prowl ring of four suspects. Police found Richard’s stolen wedding bands, but investigators are still working to find a unique diamond stone from Richard’s engagement ring that was pawned separately.

The undercover detective met up with Harrelson that day at the mall, and asked her where she had gotten the Kate Spade purse. Harrelson told him it was a birthday present. He noticed that she also had a Marc Jacobs purse.

The detective showed her his Portland police badge and asked if he could look in the Marc Jacobs purse. Harrelson allowed him to do so, according to police and prosecutors.

Inside, the detective found a wallet with a driver’s license and credit cards belonging to another woman named Amy Pearson. Harrelson claimed the wallet belonged to her friend, “Amy,” and that she was holding it for her, a probable cause affidavit said.

A check of police records, though, revealed that Pearson had her wallet and credit cards stolen from her while she was at a gym in the Hollywood District on Feb. 25.

Fields now has tied Harrelson, 32, and alleged accomplices Dennis Michael Spence, 44, Stephanie Ann Bertram, 24, and Stephanie Romero, 22, to several car prowls and thefts in the city.

Spence had come with Harrelson to Lloyd Center Mall on the day the Portland detective met up with her. Once Fields identified himself as a Portland detective, though, Spence took off, according to police records.

Fields, using a law enforcement database, found that rings matching those stolen from Richard’s purse were pawned at Mary’s Jewelry pawn shop in downtown Portland. Fields learned that Romero pawned Richard’s wedding bands at the shop, but the engagement ring was missing its 1.5 carat diamond center stone when it was brought to the store.

Investigators suspect that Spence took the diamond and Bertram pawned it separately at Affordable Jewelry & Precious Metals on Southwest Washington Street. Bertram received $3,800 for the diamond, the shop’s records showed. Spence told police he pocketed half of that amount, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Police recovered Richard’s wedding bands, but Richard had to pay the pawn shop money to retrieve them, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Waner said. The laser-inscribed diamond was sold to someone in Los Angeles, and investigators are working to get it back, according to police and prosecutors.

Harrelson and Spence also are accused of breaking into a black BMW parked at  Lloyd Center Mall on April 4. Mall security told police that a man and a woman were seen on surveillance breaking into the car and then walking northb on Northeast Grand Avenue.

The surveillance image showed Harrelson and Spence walk up to the BMW and Spence punch out the rear passenger window while Harrelson stood by as a lookout. Spence reached in and grabbed a backpack, and the two took off as an alarm sounded.

Once in custody, Harrelson told police, “Sometimes people need to have their things stolen out of their cars so they learn not to be victims,” according to the affidavit.

Harrelson was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on April 4, and released on her own recognizance about four hours later, to the dismay of police.

On Monday, a Multnomah County grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against Spence and Harrelson.

On Tuesday, Spence pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree aggravated theft, three counts of criminal conspiracy to commit identity theft, criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree theft, unlawful entry to a motor vehicle, second-degree theft and second-degree criminal mischief.

A warrant has been issued for Harrelson’s rearrest.

Bertram and Romero each have pleaded not guilty to first-degree theft.

–Maxine Bernstein

[email protected]
503-221-8212; @maxoregonian

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