Reporting Irene Cornell
NEW YORK (WCBS 880 / AP) – The first videotape played for the court shows what the prosecutor claims are two fake Hasidic robbers carrying toy guns, entering and leaving a diamond dealer’s offices.
Then came the most damaging videotape. Before the so-called robbers entered, the jewelry store owners are seen removing boxes of diamond jewelry from a large safe and returning empty boxes to the shelves so that the ‘thieves’ would have something to toss around and leave on the floor.
Then the robbers, in Hasidic garb, are seen trying to spray paint the lenses of the security cameras.
In describing their sometimes mad-cap shenanigans, the prosecutor said that no real robbers would act like these guys.
Defense lawyers said the New Year’s Eve 2008 incident at Dialite Imports was a real robbery, and there was no proof that co-owners Mahaveer Kankariya and Atul Shah were involved.
When first reported, the incident was a bizarre and brazen midafternoon robbery that made tabloid headlines. Two thieves, disguised as Hasidic Jews, forced Shah at gunpoint to open the safe in Dialite’s office in Manhattan’s Diamond District, then tied up Shah and an employee before leaving with millions of dollars’ worth of jewels, authorities were told. Police found plastic ties, duct tape and disarray when they arrived, officers testified Monday.
But it was all a hoax, Assistant District Attorney Eugene Hurley said Monday. Authorities have said the gem dealers were six months behind on rent and at least $1 million in debt.
“To deal with their financial problems, they tried a desperate gamble,” Hurley told a judge, who is hearing the case without a jury at the diamond dealers’ request.
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