If you’re going to commit a massive fraud against someone, a well-liked celebrity who can afford good lawyers would seem the dumbest possible choice.
CJ Charles Jewelers, a La Jolla, California jewelry store, just learned that lesson to the tune of $6,130,767 as a Superior Court jury in San Diego awarded New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees that amount after he won a lawsuit against the business. The jury upheld his claim that the defendant sold him gems as an investment allegedly valued at $15 million but that was worth far less.
Brees was not present in the courtroom when the verdict was handed down against Vahid Moradi, the proprietor of the jewelry shop.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday that Brees and his wife testified at the two-week trial, claiming that Moradi lied to them through the process and that his material misstatements affected their decision to purchase the goods, as textbook a case of fraud as can be found this side of a law school class on civil torts.
Brees family attorney Andrew Kim said, “It was our position that Mr. Moradi breached his fiduciary duty, and that’s essentially what the jury said. They saw Mr. Moradi for exactly what he is: a grifter and a confidence man.”
Moradi’s lawyers, reached for comment, chose to remain silent.
Moradi and Brees had a prior 15-year working relationship, and lawyers on both sides questioned the men about how their partnership related to Moradi allegedly perpetrating a fraud on a longtime client.
Peter Ross, part of Moradi’s legal team, insisted that Moradi is a reputable jeweler who acted in good faith and within the norms of the retail industry.
Brees, for his part, testified about the conversations he had with Moradi about the value of the diamonds in this case.
These were no ordinary sparkling clear rocks; Moradi testified that the color of the diamonds, more in line with other gemstones, made them likely to rise in value rather than sink into the perpetually depressed secondhand diamond market.
Brees did concede that Moradi accurately described what the diamonds were accompanied by certificates from the Gemological Society of America.
The legal issue arose due to Moradi’s pricing of the gems.
Moradi claimed he was selling the gems at wholesale and taking his profit from the seller, but even Moradi’s own lawyers conceded that the gems were sold at retail prices.
That Brees was led to believe the prices were wholesale and that the rare diamonds were a better investment than they proved to be — and that as a diamond industry professional, Moradi should have disclosed this — is how a simple investment turns into a $6 million civil award.
Meanwhile, Moradi should consider what may happen when his employer hears of a $6 million ripoff he tried to pawn off as standard industry practice; such things cannot reflect well on CJ Charles Jewelers’ reputation.
As for investing in diamonds, Brees will have opportunity to do that on the football field, as he invests his time in hopes of bringing the Saints a few dozen diamond rings from Super Bowl LIV at the conclusion of the upcoming season.
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