Ariz. man charged in lost wedding ring ransom case

AP News
Posted: Apr 04, 2011 7:56 PM
Ariz. man charged in lost wedding ring ransom case

A man who police say found a wedding ring in a suburban Phoenix convenience store and then held it for ransom has been arrested and booked into jail on a charge of theft by extortion, police said Monday.

Gary Maitha, 59, of Gilbert, lost his wedding ring at the store Sunday after taking money out of his pocket. Maitha left the store without realizing the ring had come off his finger, Gilbert police Lt. Hugh White said.

Gary Barnett, 41, found the ring, gave store employees his phone number and asked them to call him if anyone came in to claim it. But when Maitha returned to the store and called Barnett, White said that Barnett refused to give the ring up unless Maitha paid a $100 "finder's fee."

Barnett also threatened to pawn the ring for $300, White said.

"This guy's trying to make a buck by holding for ransom a wedding ring," White said. "It's deplorable."

An undercover police officer arranged a meeting with Barnett and arrested him once Barnett retrieved the ring from his truck. Police returned the ring to Maitha, who White said bought the ring 30 years ago for $700.

It's unclear whether Barnett has a lawyer.