: Earlier this year, Westminster police arrested 36-year-old Los Angeles jewelry store ownerLior Bitton
, who was accused of fraudulently collecting more than $99,000 from his insurance company after falsely reporting a 4.21 carat diamond stolen.
Now, the Orange County District Attorney's Office has announced the charge against Bitton: one felony count of insurance fraud, which could fetch five years in state prison. The announcement of Bitton's Friday arraignment follows . . .
December 1, 2010
JEWELRY STORE OWNER CHARGED WITH $99,000 FRAUD FOR COLLECTING INSURANCE ON 4.21 CARAT DIAMOND FALSELY REPORTED STOLEN
WESTMINSTER - A jewelry store owner has been charged with fraudulently collecting over $99,000 from his insurance company after falsely reporting a 4.21 carat diamond stolen. Lior Bitton, 36, Los Angeles, is charged with one felony count of insurance fraud and faces a maximum sentence of five years in state prison if convicted. He is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday, Dec. 3, 2010, at the West Justice Center in Westminster. The time and Department are to be determined.
Bitton is the owner of Pacific Diamonds and Gems jewelry store in Westminster. On Jan. 7, 2010, one of Bitton's employees was robbed of 20 diamonds. Bitton is accused of filing a claim with his insurance company for the stolen diamonds, including a 4.21 carat diamond that the defendant had certified with the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in September 2009. For the 4.21 carat diamond reported stolen, Bitton is accused of accepting over $99,000 from his insurance company.
In March 2010, Bitton is accused of traveling to Israel, meeting with a diamond wholesaler, and providing the wholesaler with the 4.21 carat diamond he had reported stolen two months earlier. The wholesaler in Israel submitted the diamond to GIA for certification. Using the stone's unique and distinct properties, similar to a fingerprint, GIA determined that the stone was the same that had been previously certified in March 2009.
The Westminster Police Department (WPD) investigated this case. The diamond was recovered and is in the custody of WPD.
Deputy District Attorney Matt Lockhart of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.
Original Post, May 17, 8:45 a.m.: 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.
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"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."
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.