A former member of the staff at the Encino home of pop music star Michael Jackson was charged Wednesday with grand theft in the disappearance of $17,000 in jewelry and cash belonging to Jackson's mother and two of his sisters.
Van Nuys Municipal Judge Kenneth Lee Chotiner issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for the suspect, Arthur Lee Stewart, 21, of Los Angeles. If convicted, Stewart could face a maximum of three years in state prison, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Diamond.
Jackson's mother, Katherine, 56, and two sisters, Janet, 20, and LaToya, 30, told police that a number of items disappeared between January and June from the family's Hayvenhurst Avenue home.
Among the missing items were a $7,500 Rolex watch, three diamond rings and a diamond necklace. One ring, belonging to LaToya Jackson, was valued at $4,000, police said.
Stewart first came under suspicion in early June, when Janet Jackson returned from a trip to Las Vegas and asked him to retrieve her belongings from her car, Diamond said. When Stewart returned from the car, he gave her only one of the two $100 bills she had left in the glove box of her Mercedes Benz, the prosecutor said.
On several occasions during the six-month period, Katherine Jackson had discovered money missing from her purse, Diamond said.
Before going to authorities, the family turned to a private security service employed at the residence.
Security guard William Bray set a trap by recording the serial numbers of currency in the women's purses, Diamond said. When a $50 bill disappeared, Bray confronted Stewart and found the same bill in his wallet, Diamond said.
Stewart admitted to police that he took the watch, two rings and $300 in cash, but denied any other thefts, Diamond said. He returned one ring, valued at $3,000, to Janet Jackson, but told police he had pawned the Rolex watch for $150 and had sold another ring for an undisclosed sum, Diamond said.
Stewart was fired as a member of the household staff June 9. Police do not know how long he had been working for the family.