Vegas jewel theft has Cayman connection

A US$2 million diamond sold to
Cayman jewellery dealer Harry Chandi proved to be the breakthrough in an
international police investigation into the theft of millions of dollars worth
of gems at a Las Vegas strip club, according to court documents in Nevada.

According to the Clark County
District Court papers, Mr. Chandi picked Matt and Antoinette Keneley out of a
police photo line-up after the couple sold him a stolen diamond when they
visited the Cayman Islands last year.

The investigation into the missing
stones began in June 2009, when California diamond merchant Eli Abdalnour lost
a bag of gems worth US$10 million in a Las Vegas strip club, according to a
report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.

Mr. Abdalnour, who was in Las Vegas
for a jewellery show, was carrying rings “in a small zip-up jewellery bag… in
the front of his pants” when he visited the Spearmint Rhino ‘gentleman’s club’
for half an hour.

After leaving, he realised the
black pouch was missing, so he returned to the club. A manager gave him back
the pouch, which had been found by Matt Keneley, a floorman at the club. Mr.
Abdalnour told police he was so relieved to have the pouch back that he gave
the manager $3,200.

However, on closer inspection of
the pouch, the jewellery dealer realised that two diamond rings were missing.
One had a rare 3.01 karat purplish-pink diamond and two yellowish diamonds on
the side, with a retail value of $2 million. The other had a 10.05 karat
princess-cut diamond, with two 1.6 karat baguettes diamonds and multiple
diamonds on the shank, which was worth $960,000.

He returned to the club and offered
a US$10,000 reward for the return of the rings. When the rings were not
returned, he called police.

On 30 July last year, Mr. Abdalnour
learned that the purplish-pink diamond had turned up in a New York City store.
Three gemologists confirmed it was his.

Detectives discovered that the
couple had sold the diamond to Mr. Chandi at Magnum Jewellers in Cayman, who
had then sent it to the jewellery store in New York.

According to the court documents,
Mr. Chandi told police that the couple had come to his store in George Town on
26 June, 2009, with the diamond, stating that they wanted to trade it for other
jewellery. He said that Mr. Keneley identified himself as Steve Jansen and that
the couple spent several hours at the store negotiating the deal.

Mr. Chandi told the Caymanian
Compass that he had bought the stone for $7,000 in cash and other jewellery and
stones valued at $123,000.

“The two came into the store and
they looked like they had a lot of money… they said the ring was an
inheritance and they wanted to trade it up. When I looked at the stone, it looked
brownish in hue so I thought it was probably worth between $130,000 and
$150,000,” Mr. Chandi said. He sent the stone for certification to the
Gemological Institute of America, the industry’s foremost authority on diamond
grading, which initially valued the stone at $500,000. When Mr. Chandi
requested a retest, the organisation graded it as an intense fantasy purple-pink
stone valued at $1 million wholesale. “The price of the stone was inflated in
the police report,” Mr. Chandi said.

Mr. Chandi said the GIA had not
flagged the diamond as stolen. It was only when he began dealing with a New
York jeweller that it was determined that the stone was stolen property.

“If it wasn’t for our network of
jewellery dealers, this guy would never have been caught,” said Mr. Chandi, who
has since been reimbursed his $130,000.

Police contacted Mr. Chandi in
London in August 2009, and arranged a photo lineup in the lobby of his hotel,
from which Mr. Chandi picked out the Keneleys.

Investigators learned the Keneleys
had sold the two loose diamonds they had received from Mr. Chandi in Los
Angeles for $18,000.

Las Vegas police arrested
36-year-old Matt Keneley, a former NFL football player, and his 33-year-old
schoolteacher wife. They each face three charges, including felony possession
of stolen property and conspiracy to possess stolen property. If convicted,
they could face one to 10 years in prison.

They visited Cayman after asking a
family friend who worked in the jewellery business, Richard Cullinan, how to
sell diamonds they hoped would fetch $1.5 million. He helped them sell the
10.05 karat diamond for $55,000 to a store in Las Vegas, according to the court

In total, the Keneleys got
US$98,000 for the stones – 3.3 per cent of their retail value. They gave Mr.
Cullinan $5,000, paid off their car loan, covered day-to-day expenses and financed
their trip to the Cayman Islands.

Police later recovered about
$14,000 in cash from a safe deposit box. The 10.05 karat princess cut diamond
has not been recovered.

After they were arrested on 27
August, 2009, the Keneleys confessed to police and wrote letters of apology to
Mr. Abdalnour.

Mr. Cullinan in February pleaded
guilty to attempted possession of stolen property and was sentenced to three
years probation. Matt Keneley is free on $50,000 bond and Antoinette Keneley
was released on her own recognisance. They will be arraigned on 27 October.

Comments are closed.