Hall of Shame: Hoax Hassids stage daffy diamond heistBy James Quiggle
December 21, 2011
Two anxiety-ridden diamond merchants needed money to prop up their struggling business finances.
Their loopy plan: Hire two thugs disguised as Hassidic Jews with toy guns. The hoax Hassids would fake a robbery of their New York diamond-district store. They’d pretend to steal the bling, but the merchants would hide the diamonds themselves and make a false $9-million insurance claim.
But Atul Shah and Haveer Kankariya needed a remedial course in thievery. Their own security cameras recorded the disheveled insurance scheme as they lurched from one bungle to the next.
Two Hassids in beards and wide-brimmed black hats entered their store, forced Shah to the floor at gunpoint and then stole the rocks from boxes in a safe, the penurious pair told their insurer after the purported snatch.
Police found empty jewelry boxes scattered on the floor. Shah pretended to be hysterical, and Kankariya said he was at home when the robbery went down.
But investigators had little trouble uncovering the plot. Shah couldn’t even shut down his own security cameras. He poured drain cleaner onto the system’s motherboard, but the damaged system kept bravely churning out damning footage that became prime fodder at their trial.
Shah and Kankariya were seen removing jewelry boxes from the safe before the sham Hassids arrived. They were stuffing diamonds and gems into a bag, and inserting the empty jewelry boxes back into the safe.
In another scene, Shah opens a jewelry box right underneath the camera, removes several packets, puts the lid back on the empty box, and places it back into the safe.
Shah also was caught buzzing the Hassids into the offices without even asking who they were.
Needless to say, their next stop was a courtroom. With straight faces, the jewelers lied that they’d forgotten they’d removed $9 million in jewelry before the robbery. Their lawyer also took a potshot at a forensics expert, questioning if he even knew what was taken from the safe.
“That’s not correct because I know an empty box when I see it,” the witness shot back.
Shah and Kankariya each received up to five years in prison. Diamonds may be forever, but for these insurance thieves, diamonds are never.
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