Investigations, arrests rock 47th Street

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently sent out subpoenas to more than 30 New York wholesale diamond companies requesting that they submit to the grand jury their corporate records, tax returns, and financial statements for the period between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2001.

Many of those subpoenaed told JCK on the condition of anonymity that they felt the U.S. Attorney’s Office was looking for info on Jacob Haas, a former Diamond Dealers Club board member who was charged in March with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Three companies connected to Haas were among those subpoenaed. However, at least one press account speculated that the subpoenas were part of a larger investigation.

Marc A. Weinstein, the assistant U.S. Attorney whose name appears on the subpoenas, told JCK he cannot comment on ongoing investigations.

Haas’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.

This is the second major law enforcement action of 47th Street retailers this month. On June 4, 11 employees of 47th Street retailers were arrested and charged with money laundering.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the jewelers had accepted money from undercover law enforcement agents who told them they were looking for gold that would be smuggled to Colombia.

Other recent law enforcement activity include:

* Last year, police arrested 22 47th Street jewelers for allegedly buying “fenced” goods.

* Several New York Hasidic Jews were recently charged with laundering money for Colombian drug dealers. Some of the meetings between the suspects took place in the Diamond District.

Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee and a former federal prosecutor, said these arrests are likely no coincidence, given all the news reports linking gems and jewelry to money laundering by terrorists.

“The associations some have made about the industry and money laundering clearly have been noticed by the authorities,” she said.