Roman Nektalov, a gem dealer whose son was murdered by a gunman in May on the street near their diamond district store, was convicted late Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan of one count of laundering money for the Colombian drug trade, the New York Times reports.
Nektalov was the last of 11 defendants in a broad money-laundering sting operation by customs officials known as Project Meltdown. The defendants were accused of selling diamonds and gold to undercover agents posing as Colombian drug dealers, and of forging the gold into the shape of nuts, bolts and other household items to facilitate shipping it back to Colombia.
Before Nektalov’s conviction, two other defendants were convicted of money laundering and seven pleaded guilty, the Times reports. Nektalov’s son Eduard, who was 46, had also been accused in the case and was to stand trial with his father.
The elder Nektalov, 75, was convicted for selling diamonds to an undercover agent on June 4, 2003, in exchange for $500,000 in cash that he “believed to be drug money,” prosecutors reportedly said. He was acquitted of four other money-laundering counts. The maximum sentence on the count on which he was convicted is 20 years, but lawyers reportedly believe he will not serve time in prison. Nektalov was hospitalized for a cardiac problem during the trial.
Eduard Nektalov left his store, Roman Jewelers, at 74 West 47th St., on the evening of May 20 and was walking up the Avenue of the Americas when a gunman shot him.