Court Watch #6: The $90 Million Diamond Heist - Exclusive
How Christie's Auction House nearly sold a psychic’s ill-gotten goods
Photo: The ‘Fancy Vivid’ 13.15 carat vivid diamond (Christie’s)
Welcome to the sixth issue of Court Watch. In honor of the thousands(!) of you who subscribed to this newsletter since it launched last month, we’re going to do some original reporting on one particularly interesting and unreported federal arrest involving a $90 million dollar heist. If you like what you read, there’s still time to support more of it through a paid membership. Depending on how this goes, we’ll try our best to include more reporting of stories you can only read first at Court Watch in future editions.
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This is a special Thursday issue of Court Watch because at the end of the week we will be stuck in the 1980s covering hearings in the Eastern District of Virginia, which for unknown but nonetheless frustrating reasons, still refuses to allow phones and laptops in the courthouse. We’ll go back to a Friday publishing schedule next week.
In addition to an exclusive heist story, this issue will cover a national pharmacy chain purportedly using customer donations to pay a debt, a North Dakota sex shop staking its business on the first amendment, a telemarketing scam spoofing FBI phone numbers, a Texas primary opponent threatening to kill his political rival, and everything else in between.
But first, let’s talk about Court Watch’s first-ever feature story: a scoop about a psychic, an auction house, and $90 million dollars worth of stolen jewelry.
A Psychic’s $90 Million Diamond Heist
On Tuesday, Christie’s, the storied auction house, held its ‘Magnificent Jewels’ event. The signature piece was supposed to be a rare 13.15 carat pink diamond. News reporting at the time highlighted the sale of the massive rock described by Christie’s as “a phenomenon in the world of rare diamonds.” It was set to be shown publicly to would-be buyers in Hong Kong and New York City. The glittering piece was expected to fetch somewhere between 25 to 35 million dollars. Unfortunately for the ultra rich, lovers of the color pink, and the auction house, the gem was unceremoniously pulled from the collection with a terse statement that it had been “withdrawn from sale.”
Court Watch, as an admirer from afar of the finer things in life, has its pulse on the rare jewels world. So when the diamond was removed from the auction we did what we always do: went digging for a story.
Which brings us to the criminal case of a man named John Lee. He was arrested in New Jersey in late November for mail fraud charges in Florida. The criminal complaint sat untouched and unreported for three weeks because no one reads past the first few pages of mail fraud charges. Why would you? But buried in the twenty two page filing lies a fascinating story. According to prosecutors, an employee of a quite wealthy individual in Doha, Qatar reached out to a purported psychic on an online platform seeking their guidance in, according to the court records, “relationship and love advice” but instead ended up helping steal $90 million dollars worth of jewelry.
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