Indian-American diamond merchants re-enact movie heist, held

Friday, February 25, 2011

NEW YORK - Two Indian American diamond merchants have been arrested on charges of staging a robbery straight out of the movie “Snatch” in which two men disguised as Hasidic Jews made off with $10 million worth of jewels.

Atul Shah, 48, and Mahaveer Kankariya, 43, owners of Dialite Imports on West 46th Street, were more than a million dollars in debt and concocted the elaborate hoax to collect on a massive insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London, authorities said.

The bizarre New Year’s Eve robbery mimicked the opening scene of the 2000 Guy Ritchie film “Snatch,” in which Benicio Del Toro and a gang of diamond thieves pose as Hasids, the New York Post reported.

In the real-life version, when the jewellery store owners reported the bogus Dec 31, 2008, heist, they claimed that two men - sporting black coats, hats and beards - pulled guns after being buzzed into the store and appeared to make off with a startling haul of precious stones from the safe.

The “Hasids” - who had actually been hired by the store owners - were caught on building surveillance entering in their costumes, then spray-painting the camera lenses to make them useless, the Post said.

Surveillance cameras inside the store, however, showed the owners clearing all the bling out of the safe two hours before the alleged robbery. The owners thought they had disabled those cameras.

Drain cleaner was later poured inside the computer where the store’s surveillance data was stored. It was unclear whether it was done by the jewellers or the faux Hasids.

When the owners reported the so-called theft, investigators thought their story was suspicious and took the store’s surveillance-data hard drive for forensic analysis, sources cited by the Post said. They found that the drain cleaner hadn’t destroyed all of the data recorded by the video camera.

The restored video allegedly showed Shah and Kankariya removing the supposedly stolen gems from their safe and putting them into a bag.

The jewels-which the two men had insured for $9.2 million-have not been recovered. Neither man has collected any of the insurance cash.

Shah and Kankariya, who both live in Brooklyn, are charged with grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records. They were ordered held on $750,000 bail.

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