Jeweler Lior Bitton should change his name to Liar Bitton, according to Westminster Police.
The 36-year-old owner of Los Angeles-based gem wholesaler Pacific Diamonds & Gems was arrested for allegedly inflating the loss he suffered after one of his couriers was robbed in January in Westminster.
Included in the $256,000 pinching of diamonds Bitton reported to his insurance company, Berkley Asset Protection of New York, was a 4.21 ct diamond with a retail value of $99,000.
However, during their investigation, detectives were able to determine that particular diamond was not in Westminster at the time of the robbery.
The alleged inflation of the loss made detectives wonder if there had been a robbery at all. But further investigation revealed that such a crime did occur. The courier was near Bolsa Avenue and Weststate Street around 7 p.m. Jan. 7 when six armed thieves wearing dark-colored hoods confronted him and took his jewels without hurting him. No robbers were apprehended.
"This type of crime happens periodically to jewelers who travel with gems to show to jewelry store merchants," explained Officer Van Woodson in the Westminster PD statement on Bitton's arrest.
The second alleged crime happened when Bitton filled out his insurance claim. Working with the Gemological Institute of America and the federal Interstate Theft Task Force, Westminster detectives learned that Bitton had traveled to Israel and given a jewel merchant there the 4.21 ct diamond to its value appraised.
"By checking the 'fingerprint' of the diamond, investigators were able to determine this was the same diamond Bitton reported as stolen to WPD and to his insurance company," Woodson states. "By knowingly doing so, Bitton was committing a theft by fraud."
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After interviewing Bitton at his LA office on March 25, a Westminster Police detective and FBI agent placed him under arrest. He was booked into Orange County Jail on the charge of filing a false claim to receive payment. He made bail, awaits a preliminary hearing and maintains his innocence.
The courier was not arrested.