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3 Plead Guilty in International Jewelry Fraud Case

Each defendant faces up to five years in prison.

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Three members of an international conspiracy to import knock-off jewelry from the Philippines and misrepresent it as Native American have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme, authorities said.

On Jan. 6, all three defendants pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Z. Boyle of the District of Arizona. INSTORE first reported on the case in March.

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They face a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000. Their sentencing dates have not yet been set.

  • Laura Marye Wesley, a.k.a. Laura Lott, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods, wire fraud, mail fraud, and entry of goods by means of false statements and smuggling goods, for her role in the manufacture, importation and sale of knock-off jewelry as Native American-made. Wesley is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.
  • Christian Coxon, 46, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misrepresent Indian-produced goods and to commit wire fraud, for his role in ordering and misrepresenting imported, knock-off jewelry as Native American-made at his retail store Turquoise River Trading Co., located in San Antonio, TX. Coxon is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.
  • Waleed Sarrar, a.k.a. Willie Sarrar, 44, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misrepresent Indian-produced goods and to commit wire fraud, for his role in ordering and misrepresenting imported, knock-off jewelry as Native American-made at his retail store Scottsdale Jewels, located in Scottsdale, AZ. Sarrar is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.

The announcement of the pleas came from Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey of the District of Arizona.

According to information that the defendants admitted to as part of their pleas, from January 2016 through February 2019, they conspired with each other, and others, to design jewelry in the Native American Indian style and manufacture the jewelry in the Philippines with Filipino labor. The defendants also conspired to import the jewelry from the Philippines to Arizona without indelible markings as required by law, and display, advertise and sell the jewelry to customers based on false representations that the jewelry items were made by Native Americans in the U.S.

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As part of her plea, Wesley agreed that she owned and operated LMN Jewelers, a jewelry business that specialized in the sale of Native American style jewelry, and co-owned and co-operated Last Chance Jewelers, a similar jewelry business.

She also admitted to removing “Made in the Philippines” stickers from bags of imported jewelry, smuggling jewelry into the U.S. from the Philippines through the U.S. Postal Service to avoid inspection by federal authorities at the port of entry, wiring money to the Philippines to cover the costs of the jewelry-making business there, working with Filipino factory workers who were manufacturing the knock-offs, and delivering the knock-off Native-American-style jewelry to retail jewelry stores in Arizona, Colorado, California, Texas, Minnesota, Utah and elsewhere.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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Louis Vuitton to Sell Jewelry Made From World’s Second-Largest Diamond

The deal follows LVMH’s acquisition of Tiffany & Co.

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LVMH Sewelo Diamon

LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE has entered a deal to sell jewelry made from the world’s second-largest diamond, known as the Sewelo diamond.

It’s a 1,758 carat gem that’s the size of a tennis ball.

Lucara Diamond Corp. announced a deal with LVMH and the HB Co., a diamond manufacturer from Antwerp, that will see the diamond cut into pieces and made into Louis Vuitton jewelry.

Bloomberg reports that LVMH “will likely create several extremely high-end pieces  to establish a sense of exclusivity.”

A price tag for the Sewelo has not been revealed. Yahoo Finance notes that it sold for $53 million in 2017.

The acquisition is further evidence of LVMH’s plans to grow its jewelry business, according to Bloomberg. It follows the company’s nearly $16 billion acquisition of Tiffany & Co.

The diamond was recovered from Lucara’s Karowe Diamond Mine in Botswana in April 2019.

According to a press release from Lucara:

Lucara will receive an up front non-material payment for the Sewelô and retain a 50% interest in the individual polished diamonds that result.

Further, 5% of all of the retail sales proceeds generated from this historic collection will be invested directly back into Botswana on community-based initiatives undertaken by Lucara.

Lucara CEO Eira Thomas said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Louis Vuitton, the famous luxury House, to transform the historic, 1,758 carat Sewelô, Botswana’s largest diamond, into a collection of fine jewellery that will commemorate this extraordinary discovery and contribute direct benefits to our local communities of interest in Botswana.”

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Karma Hits Hard as Bungling Thieves Lock Themselves in Jewelry Store During Robbery (Video)

A judge called the crime a ‘fiasco.’

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Security footage of a jewelry story robbery described as a “fiasco,” with the thieves briefly locking themselves in the business, is making the rounds on social media.

The bungling robbers struck the Ital Gold shop in Green Lanes, Haringey, north London, the BBC reports. The crime took place in April, but the video surfaced recently when Andrew Elliott, 32, was sentenced to seven years in prison for the robbery.

A store worker “was held in a headlock and dragged to the floor,” according to the BBC. She broke free and ran away, hitting a panic alarm and then hiding in the bathroom.

Footage of the heist has accumulated 1.3 million views on Twitter, Today.com reports.

In the clip, the suspects tried to flee but realized they were trapped, as the door wouldn’t open from the inside. One of the suspects thought to hit the “catch and release” button, according to Today.com. The thieves then repeatedly failed to hold the door for each other.

In sentencing Elliott, Judge Mark Dennis QC said, “This was a planned and organized robbery, however much of a fiasco the latter part of it turned out to be,” according to the BBC.

The three still managed to make off with $27,000 in jewelry. The other two suspects have yet to be identified.

Watch the BBC’s clip:

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Signet Stock Soars to Best Day in 27 Years Following Strong Holiday Results

Digital sales led the way.

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Signet Kay Jewelers

Signet Jewelers Ltd.’s share price soared on Thursday in the wake of strong holiday sales.

The stock saw it’s largest single-day gain in 27 years, climbing more than 40 percent, MarketWatch reports. It closed at $30.13 per share.

Signet (NYSE: SIG) on Dec. 5 predicted that same-store sales for its fourth-quarter, which ends in January, would be down between 2 percent and 4 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

But strong holiday sales prompted the retailer, whose brands include Jared, Kay Jewelers and Zales, to raise its guidance. It’s now predicting that same-store sales for the quarter will be up 0.1 percent.

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Digital sales have been particularly strong. For the nine weeks ending Jan. 4, they were up 13.5 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Brick-and-mortar sales were down 0.2 percent.

“Product newness, investments in our digital capabilities, and more targeted marketing campaigns drove both e-commerce and brick and mortar growth in North America,” Signet CEO Virginia Drosos was quoted saying.

Read more at the MarketWatch

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