NCAA title rings stolen from Auriemma's car

Friday, January 7th 2005, 6:55 am
By: News On 6

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is without four stolen national championship rings even though a suspected buyer was arrested Thursday.

Police said two teenagers took the rings Nov. 28 and sold them for $150. Authorities say the rings are worth about $800 each.

Auriemma said he had the rings in his briefcase for a university photo shoot. He left the briefcase in his car, parked in a Manchester commuter lot while he went to dinner, police said.

``I didn't lock my car and someone took my stuff,'' said Auriemma, who has coached UConn to five NCAA titles, including the last three.

The teens, 13 and 15, broke into several cars in the lot that night.

``They were stealing change and CDs, maybe some credit cards, when they stumbled onto these things,'' Manchester Sgt. Christopher Davis said. ``I imagine it opened their eyes up a little bit.''

Police arrested the teens last month after people reported seeing the boys wearing the rings.

Investigators didn't announce the theft until Thursday, when they arrested Javier Lugo of East Hartford on charges of larceny and risk of injury to the juveniles. Lugo was arraigned Thursday and was being held on $20,000 bail. He is due back in court Feb. 9.

Lugo's criminal history includes an arrest in New York for burglary and possession of stolen property, police said.

``I believe he still knows where they are and may still have access to them somehow,'' Davis said. ``They're going to be so hot now I can't imagine anybody wanting them.''

Auriemma, a five-time national coach of the year, said he didn't wear the rings and that the theft can't undo what his teams have accomplished.

``Just because somebody steals something and wears it around doesn't make them good at anything,'' Auriemma said after learning of the arrest. ``Whoever has them out there, God bless them. Have fun with them and enjoy them.''

A fifth ring was not in the briefcase because it had been sent back to the manufacturer for an alteration, the UConn sport information director's office said.