Diamond District jewelers charged with laundering

In another blow to the Diamond District in midtown Manhattan, three jewelry dealers were charged Thursday with a scheme to launder drug money for South American dealers, Newsday reports.

An indictment in federal court reportedly alleged that for a fee, Ebrahim Raphael, Hamid Delshad and Yitzcok Hirschfeld exchanged bags filled with cash for checks drawn from the defendants’ business accounts. The transactions—disguised as jewelry or gem deals—allowed dealers to deposit the checks, then wire the funds to Colombia, Venezuela, and other destinations.

Investigators from the Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and New York Police Department estimated that about $1.5 million in drug money was laundered, the newspaper reports.

The defendants, who operated outlets on West 47th Street, were awaiting arraignment Thursday, the newspaper reports.

Other recent money laundering investigations have produced three convictions and seven guilty pleas of Diamond District defendants. Another defendant, Eduard Nektalov, was shot and killed in May before he could go to trial; police said they believe the killing was an organized crime hit.