Wednesday, April 13, 2011

840 Pound Emerald Worth Nearly $1 Billion | Billion With A B


A Morgan Hill businessman's claim to an 840-pound emerald - which he said he bought from two Brazilians for $60,000, then recorded the purchase on a document that was lost in a fire - is self-contradictory and unbelievable, a Los Angles judge has declared in a tentative ruling.

Superior Court Judge John Kronstadt published detailed findings Friday that would dismiss the claim of Anthony Thomas and his wife, Wendi, to the Bahia Emerald - among at least a half-dozen would-be owners of a giant uncut jewel that has been appraised as high as $925 million.

The Thomases could ask Kronstadt to reconsider his ruling before it becomes final or appeal to higher courts - both doubtful prospects based on the judge's repeated statements that Thomas and his supporting witnesses were not credible. Kronstadt will separately consider other claimants, who include a group of investors and Thomas' onetime friend, Kenneth Conetto.

Conetto, who owns stakes in mines around the world, said he learned of the find at one of his Brazilian holdings in 2001 and took Thomas with him to line up a buyer. Thomas, whose background is in construction, said he saw the stone in a carport and had his picture taken with it. He accepted the offer of the Brazilians who found the rock to buy it for $60,000.

He said he wired them the money after returning to the United States, but the emerald never arrived, and Conetto later told him it had been stolen. Conetto said none of that ever happened, and he actually had the jewel transferred to warehouses in Brazil and San Jose, then sent it to New Orleans to be viewed by potential buyers.

The emerald's further odyssey included two years submerged by the waters of Hurricane Katrina, multiple changes of possession, a brief appearance on eBay, and lodging in 2008 in the Los Angeles County sheriff's office, where it rests today while the ownership is sorted out.

Kronstadt said the two Brazilians testified credibly that they never sold the emerald to Thomas or gave him a bill of sale, and that the $60,000 he wired them was for a different jewelry transaction. The judge also said he believed Conetto's testimony that he attended the meeting and did not hear any such sale discussed.

Implausible testimony

Thomas, by contrast, testified implausibly that he took no steps to track or insure the shipment and did nothing to try to retrieve the emerald after Conetto told him it had been stolen, Kronstadt said.

Thomas also testified that he lost the bill of sale in a fire at his home that was set by Conetto or other rivals. Kronstadt said the claim was implausible because an arsonist would realize the owner had made copies of the document.

"The court finds that there never was an agreement of any type reached between Thomas and the Brazilians for the sale of the emerald," the judge concluded.

Thomas' lawyer was unavailable for comment.

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