ST. CHARLES — An eastern Missouri woman who was arrested after finding a $20,000 diamond ring in a tanning salon and keeping it for nearly a month has filed suit against the owner, claiming she was cheated out of a $3,000 reward.
Bonnie Land of St. Charles said she always intended to return the ring but forgot to leave it at the front desk as she left The Tan Company on May 9, then didn't know what to do when she discovered it in a jacket pocket a few weeks later.
"I'm not a thief; the worst thing I think I've ever done is speeding," Land, 34, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But this called my whole character into question."
Her lawsuit against the ring's owner, Melisa Boucek, seeks more than $66,500 for breach of contract, fraud and damages. The stealing charge against Land has been deferred by the St. Charles County prosecutor in part because the ring was returned, but the case could proceed later.
Land said she found the ring — a two-carat yellow diamond surrounded by 27 smaller white diamonds — hanging on a hook in a spray-tan room that Boucek had also used. Land said she put it in a jacket pocket and left the salon after her tanning session without remembering to leave it at the desk.
Boucek reported the loss to police after workers at the salon told her they couldn't find the ring. Officers interviewed employees and customers who had used the room where Boucek left her ring. But no one contacted Land because she had moved, and the business didn't have her new address.
Land said she forgot about the ring until finding it in her jacket pocket a few weeks later while on a trip to Minnesota.
"I felt so guilty about having it that I just rolled it up in some tissue and put it in a back pocket of my purse," she said. "I didn't know how to take it back."
On June 7, Land went to the salon for another tanning session and saw a sign with a picture of the ring offering a $3,000 reward for its return. She and Boucek arranged to meet the next day at a jewelry store where the ring had been appraised.
Boucek had alerted authorities, and police were at the store. Land was taken in for questioning, and about six weeks later, she was charged with stealing.
Boucek, of St. Charles, has declined to comment on the lawsuit.
St. Charles police Detective Mike Myers, who investigated the case, said the matter could have been resolved easily had the ring's discovery been reported to salon employees.
"It was found in a room that only was used by one person at a time," Myers said. "Even if it was a week later, why not just go back to the place and say, 'Hey, has anybody reported this missing?'"