Friday, March 04, 2011

Diamond District jewelers accused in 'Snatch'-style heist found guilty 

A judge found two Diamond District jewelers guilty Friday of staging a fake heist straight out of the movie "Snatch" to get a $7 million insurance payout.

The phony robbery was a "desperate gamble" that went wrong, and the judge found each man guilty on all seven counts.

Prosecutors had said jewelers Atul Shah and Mahaveer Kankariya paid guys dressed as Hasidic Jews to barge into their store with fake guns, just like in the 2001 Guy Ritchie movie.

"I find that this fraud was predicated on a fake robbery," said Judge Thomas Farber in the bench trial at Manhattan Criminal Court. "The emptying of the safe, to me, is suspicious."

Farber also called Shah's testimony that he buzzed in the two Hasidic-dressed gunmen thinking they were Bombay couriers "frankly ridiculous."

As the judge read his verdict, both men looked straight ahead while their families leaned forward and gripped each others' hands.

Farber said he determined both men worked togetherin the scheme.

"It is clear to me that this was a conspiracy and could not have worked any other way," he said. "This was the most difficult thing I've done in my career. I find the defendants guilty."

The jewelers' insurance bid went sour after officials recovered surveillance video of Shah and Kankariya clearing out a safe two hours before the fake gunmen got there on Dec. 31, 2008.

The partners had attempted to destroy the evidence, pouring Drano over the recording equipment in their offices, but the video was in good enough shape for technicians to repair it.


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