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 Jan. 1, 1998, and Dec. 31, 2001.

Many of those subpoenaed told JCK on condition of anonymity that they felt the U.S. attorney’s office was looking for information 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.

The subpoenas followed another major law enforcement action that also took place in June. 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 activities include:

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

  • Several New York Hasidic Jews recently were 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.