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Diamond merchants accused of staging fake robbery

By George Joseph
March 08, 2010 21:36 IST
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The New York police last week arrested Atul Shah, 48, and Mahaveer Kankariya, 43, partners of Dialite Imports, a wholesale diamond business in Manhattan, and charged them with staging a robbery at their store to collect insurance money.

Edward M Gray, 55, accused of taking part in the alleged fake robbery, was also arrested. The prosecution said Shah and Kankariya were in debt for more than $1 million and hired two gunmen and concocted an elaborate hoax to claim the insurance money from Lloyds of London.

December 31, 2008, two men who looked like Hasidic Jews  -- sporting black coats, hats and fake beards -- entered the store and pulled their guns and asked Shah to open the safes, according to the prosecution. An employee, Ujwal Bist, was also present in the store on 46th Street. Shah complied.

The gunmen tied up Bist and emptied the safe's contents. Then they went to another room and emptied the safe there too and tied up Shah before leaving the scene. Shah told the police then that the robbers took away jewelry worth approximately $9 million. Shah and Kankariya clamed that the robbers also damaged the store's surveillance system.

Drain cleaner was poured inside the computer where the surveillance data was stored, but it had not destroyed all of the data recorded by the video camera.

The police saw the video and found that the accused were removing a significant amount of jewelry from the safe two hours before the robbery and placing the empty trays back in the safe. The owners thought they had disabled those cameras, according to the prosecution. The police accused that the Hasids were hired by the store owners.

They were caught on the building surveillance and then spray-painted the camera lenses to make them useless. Reports compared the incident to the movie Snatch, in which two men disguised as Hasidic Jews made off with nearly $10 million worth of jewels.

Shah and Kankariya later informed the insurer about the robbery and demanded $7milion in insurance payment. Lloyds alerted the police about the incident. The stolen jewels have not been recovered. They did not get any money from the insurance. Gray's alleged accomplice has not yet been arrested.

Shah and Kankariya were charged with attempted grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. They were ordered held on $750,000 bail. Gray was charged with insurance fraud and attempted grand larceny.

Shah and Kankariya's lawyer Sherwood Allen Salvan said the allegations against his clients are not true and both are ready to undergo the polygraph test to prove their innocence. He said his clients were being judged too quickly.

"They're good men with families that need them," Slvan told India Abroad. He said that the accused wanted a grand jury trial to show proof of their innocence. He said the prosecution has no evidence. Shah lives in Closter, New Jersey and Kankariya lives in Norwood, New Jersey.

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George Joseph in New York