Man charged after police say he held wedding ring hostage

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GILBERT, Ariz. -- A man is facing a charge of extortion after holding a wedding ring hostage and demanding ransom for its return.

Gary Maitha went into a QuikTrip to grab breakfast Sunday morning. As he was paying, his wedding ring fell out of his pocket. He put it there because he woke up with swollen hands.

Police said Gary Barnett, 41, and a friend walked into the convenience store and found the ring. They decided not to turn it into the cashier because they "didn't trust her," according to a police report. Instead, Barnett left his phone number so the owner of the ring could get in touch with him.

Maitha called him on the phone a short time later.

“Very nice and personable individual… the last thing he said was, ‘It’ll cost you a hundred bucks to get the ring. I think it’s worth that.’” A report states Barnett even threatened to “pawn the thing” if Maitha couldn’t come up with the money.

I was angry. I was surprised. I felt a bit of anger, like I’m being taken advantage of,” Maitha said.

Maitha agreed to pay the money, meanwhile deciding to call police. Gilbert officers set up a sting to get the 700-dollar ring back and arrested Barnett with one count of theft by extortion, a Class 4 felony.

Barnett told officers in an interview that he wouldn't have pawned the ring, but he should have received a reward. "Fifty bucks, a six-pack or something."

Police tried to explain why his alleged actions were illegal, but Barnett didn't seem to understand.

Maitha and his ring, first put on his hand 33 years ago, have been reunited. He said if Barnett would have done the right thing, he would have offered him a reward of at least $20.