Stolen AFC ring returned to owner nine years later
LOS ANGELES -- Brenden Stai was in the middle of a move to Jacksonville in 2000 when he last remembers seeing the AFC championship ring he once donned.
It was on his rolodex in his home office, but the hardware had to be packed up and shipped from Kansas to Jacksonville because Stai was being traded again.
The ring was stolen and Stai never saw it again.
Until this week.
Nine years after losing track of the ring, which he earned when he was a rookie with the Steelers in 1995, the expensive jewelry turned up at Cash4Gold, a Florida-based company that buys gold from consumers.
The 10-carat ring, valued at $3,000, was flagged by a data entry and testing employee at a Pompano Beach facility and taken to the in-house estate buyer before being handed over to law enforcement in Fort Lauderdale.
Stai received a call soon after.
"I thought I would never see it again," Stai said.
"The last time I remember seeing the ring was in my office. It was such a whirlwind of events. I woke up in the middle of the night (in Jacksonville) and was like, 'Where is my ring?' The tough thing about it was I couldn't really get a grasp on where I had left it or if it was stolen by the movers in Kansas City."
Stai, who lives in Nebraska, ordered a replica of the ring with permission from Steelers ownership, the Rooney family.
"I was very upset, but what can you do," Stai said.
The Rooneys originally purchased the AFC rings in '95 for the team. Stai wanted it in his memorabilia.
"It was more or less a second-place ring, but it was from the Rooneys themselves," said Stai, an All-American at Nebraska who also won a national championship in 1994.
Even though the original ring was gone, Stai heard stories of its travels.
While playing with the Lions in 2001, the team security guard told Stai that someone in Jacksonville had been using his ring to pose as him in an attempt to pick up women and extort money from older people.
"A fan of mine called the Jacksonville front office and told them that somebody was using my ring to come off as me. The guy ended up getting prosecuted, but my ring never showed up," Stai said.
It turned up in Florida, but the onyx on the top had been popped out and diamonds on the side had also been removed. The package came in from an address in Northern Florida and Cash4Gold turned the person's information over to law enforcement.
"The ring was massively large in terms of thickness, gold and size," Cash4Gold founder and CEO Jeff Aronson said.
"We've never had anything of that magnitude come in. This was shocking for me. I've been in the industry for 15 years and have never seen a championship ring. I tried it on and found out we were the same size."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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