Just 10 days after pleading guilty for his alleged role in a jewelry theft-by-conversion scheme, one local man now wants to reverse his decision, according to a document filed Jan. 23 in Dawson County Superior Court.
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Frank Robert Kunkel, III, 39, is now asking to withdraw his previous Alford plea in a case where he and his father, Frank Robert Kunkel, Jr., 67, are accused of stealing jewelry through their shared business.
On Jan. 13, 2023, Kunkel III pleaded to one misdemeanor count of theft by conversion and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay one victim back $497.50 in restitution, court documents stated.
An Alford plea lets a defendant plead guilty but uphold their innocence, while admitting that the case could result in a guilty verdict if brought to trial.
If Kunkel, III’s withdrawal request is granted, his case will be returned to the open docket for prosecution and trial.
Kunkel, III and Kunkel, Jr. previously ran the now-closed Kunkel & Son Jewelers store based at the Dawson 400 shopping center.
Over their two-plus decades in business, the men were known for their friendliness, high-quality craftsmanship and reasonable prices, according to reviews on their business’ Facebook page. By the end of 2020, however, the store had closed.
The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office arrested the father and son on Aug. 31, 2021. Kunkel, III was subsequently accused of one count of theft by conversion, while Kunkel, Jr. was accused of two felony and four misdemeanor counts of the offense, stated a June 2022 indictment.
Instead of repairing or altering items, the two men allegedly stole customers’ jewelry by converting the pieces to be their own property, the indictment stated.
Kunkel, III is accused of taking one customer’s nine brand-name watches “on and about April 14, 2020” or on Feb. 1 of that year and converting those items to be his own property, as shown by his case filings.
In five other counts, Kunkel, Jr. is charged with taking five other victims’ rings, a bracelet and stones and converting the items to his own use “on and about April 14, 2020” or on July 1 and Aug. 16, 2019 and Feb. 1, 2020.
The Kunkels’ indictment references the state’s COVID-19 emergency, which extended court deadlines and filing requirements.
Previously, Kunkel. Jr. was charged with committing five counts of unlawful alteration of precious metals and gems in 2011. In that case, he was accused of unlawfully cutting up a victim’s two pairs of earrings and a pearl brooch pin, pendant and diamond ring within a week of acquiring the jewelry.
Kunkel, Jr. pleaded guilty as a first offender in 2013 and was sentenced to a suspended probation of 12 months.
Per his first offender designation, Kunkel Jr. was released from that sentence in April 2014 and is not considered to have a criminal conviction, according to court documents.
DCN will continue to follow the Kunkels’ pending 2022 case.