He acted nice, dressed nice and drove a nice car. Rebecca Lankford said she was even more impressed when she watched Raul Hernandez work.
Now, though, the Heights jeweler wishes she wouldn’t have been blinded by the man’s sparkling appearance and craftsmanship.
Hernandez, 55, was arrested last month by the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office and charged with felony theft in the 180th State District Court. He is alleged to have stolen two diamond rings valued at $16,000 while trying out for a job at Rebecca Lankford Designs, a custom jewelry business at 703 Yale St.
“He comes across very well-spoken, dressed very nicely, and he’s talented. That’s the sad thing,” Lankford said. “He certainly didn’t look like the photo when they arrested him.”
Hernandez, who according to court records is a Mexico native also known as Raul Arcega Hernandez and Arcega Raul Hernandez, pleaded guilty to stealing two rings from a former employer, Broyles Jewelry in Northwest Harris County, in 2018. He received four years deferred adjudication and was ordered to community supervision on June 19, according to court documents.
Less than two weeks later, Hernandez is alleged to have stolen jewelry from Lankford’s business, which provided surveillance video to the constable’s office. Lankford said the rings were family heirlooms belonging to customer Ann Singleton, who enlisted Lankford to repurpose the diamonds into earrings.
Lankford said the constable’s office obtained the rings and returned them to Lankford when Hernandez was arrested July 5 at his Southwest Houston apartment.
“After we interviewed him during the course and scope of the investigation, he admitted he did actually do the theft form Rebecca Lankford Designs,” Constable Alan Rosen said. “He confessed to that.”
Rosen said the investigation, led by Deputy Joe Bowden, revealed that Hernandez has pawned 455 pieces of jewelry with a total value of more than $1 million since 2015. Rosen said the constable’s office is in the process of determining whether any of those items were stolen.
Along those lines, Rosen said any Houston-area jewelers who have encountered Hernandez and suspect he may have stolen from them are encouraged to contact his office by phone at 713-755-5200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Hernandez’s arrest, Lankford said she discussed her experience with a collection of jewelers and diamond dealers who work at 6222 Richmond Ave. She said many of them had encountered Hernandez, whose photo was posted in a security booth at the building.
“He’s been doing this for quite a while,” she said.
Hernandez is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 21. He was released from police custody July 9 on a $3,000 bond.
Four days earlier, a Harris County assistant district attorney filed a motion requesting a bond of at least $50,000, citing the case for which Hernandez received deferred adjudication.
“Why he got out I don’t know,” Lankford said.
Lankford said her experience with Hernandez has taught her to be more cautious with prospective employees. She said he answered a job ad and, because he made such a good impression on his “bench test” during his first and only day at her business June 28, she had him perform some jewelry work immediately thereafter and paid him for it.
Lankford said she discovered the following week that Singleton’s two diamond rings, which had been placed in a plastic bag inside an envelope, were missing. She said surveillance video, which she provided to the constable’s office, showed Hernandez using a sleight of hand to take the rings while handling other jewelry.
The rings were eventually returned to Lankford, who fulfilled Singleton’s wish by using the diamonds to make earrings.
“So I’m good,” Lankford said. “I made the earrings the next day, and she’s worn them ever since.”