Legal battle ensues over million-dollar diamond heist

Photo courtesy of the FBI.

A legal battle is underway between a group of private jewelers and Brink’s Global Services — the international transportation service — after millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds and rare jewels were stolen from the back of an armored truck in Lebec last month.  

While Brink’s disputes the actual cost of the stolen goods, the jewelers have estimated the worth of the diamonds, gems and jewelry to be upwards of $100 million — making the theft one of the most expensive diamond thefts in history. 

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Brink’s against the group of 13 jewelers, the armored truck company states its driver was asleep in the truck when the burglary occurred, while the second armed driver was inside the Flying J Truck stop getting food.  

The jewelers’ lawsuit was not immediately available to The Signal on Wednesday. According to published reports it was filed earlier this week after the Brink’s lawsuit was filed in the New York Southern District United States District courthouse. Representation for at least one of the plaintiffs could not be reached as of the publication of this story.  

According to the Brink’s lawsuit filed on Aug. 4, the armored truck company states that the jewels were part of a gem and jewelry show in San Mateo and were then being transported to another show in Pasadena on July 10.  

The truck was loaded with 73 bags containing jewelry and other items, according to the lawsuit, when the two Brink’s guards were driving the tractor-trailer away from San Mateo.  

“At 2:05 a.m., Driver 1 drove the truck to the Flying J Truck Stop in Lebec, California. Per Department of Transportation regulations, Driver 1 left Driver 2 asleep in the truck and went into the Flying J for food,” reads the Brink’s lawsuit. “Driver 1 returned to the truck about 27 minutes later — at 2:32 am — and saw that the red plastic seal around the trailer was cut and lying on the ground.” 

After finding that the rear lock on the truck had also been cut away, Driver 1 spoke with Driver 2, who said he did “not see or hear anything unusual” while asleep inside the truck, according to the lawsuit. They then called law enforcement officials, who arrived on the scene and discovered that not only had there been no security cameras in the immediate vicinity of the truck, but that of the 73 large bags on the manifest, only 51 bags remained.  

“The pickup manifests for the missing shipments declare a total value of $8,700,000. Local media reported that the value of the missing shipments exceeds $100,000,000. Brink’s has reason to believe that the local media reports are based on statements by some or all of the defendants.” 

The lawsuit states that Brink’s believes the defendants “substantially under-declared” the value of their items on the pickup manifest, the document that identifies the value of each shipment of valuables. An L.A. Times report regarding the burglary published on Tuesday alludes to the depreciation in value on the pickup manifest possibly being due to the sliding cost of shipping based on the cost of items and the associated insurance that covers Brink’s.   

“The higher a shipment’s declared value, the more expensive it is to ship, owing to increased insurance costs,” the Times article said. “Arnold Duke, president of the International Gem and Jewelry Show, said that, in general, jewelers can ‘reduce their costs tremendously’ by assigning their merchandise lower values than their fair-market cost.” 

As a result of this alleged practice, according to the lawsuit filed by Brink’s, the vendors state the stolen goods amounted to $100 million while Brink’s states their declared value, and what was signed for in their contract with the 13 jewelers, was approximately $8.7 million.  

The lawsuit asks the New York court to rule in favor of Brink’s, and that the company’s responsibility to their clients be governed by the contracts. 

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