New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, are suing a La Jolla jeweler for allegedly lying to them about the value of diamonds he sold to them, defrauding them out of millions of dollars, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
According to the complaint in San Diego Superior Court, jeweler Vahid Moradi and his companies CJ Charles Jewelers and Vahid Moradi Inc. recommended and sold to the couple about $15 million in investment-grade diamonds — which, the couple learned last year, were only worth about $6 million.
The discrepancy came to light last year after the couple hired an independent appraiser to determine the stones’ market value ahead of the couple’s annual review of their finances. Drew Brees, who played for the San Diego Charges from 2001 to 2005, then confronted Moradi about the discrepancy.
Moradi allegedly confessed that he had charged the couple a substantial markup for the diamonds, the lawsuit said. But Moradi “insisted, unabashedly, that he had done nothing wrong because he charged the couple the price at which Moradi expected the jewelry could be resold in 10 to 15 years.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, Moradi declined to comment on the lawsuit because litigation was ongoing. He referred questions to his attorney, Eric George, of the Los Angeles-based law firm Browne George Ross LLP.
George provided this statement on his client’s behalf: “Mr. Brees’ behavior and his belief that he was wronged because the jewelry did not appreciate in value as quickly as he hoped both demonstrate a lack of integrity and contradict basic principles of both economics and the law,” the statement said. “He should restrict his game-playing to the football field, and refrain from bullying honest, hard-working businessmen like my client.”
One of the couple’s attorneys, Rebecca Riley of the Northridge-based law firm Law office Andrew F. Kim Esq PC, said by phone Wednesday that the Breeses weren’t buying the expensive jewelry to wear. The couple bought the stones solely as an investment to diversify their financial portfolio, and they kept the gems locked in a vault almost all the time.
The couple’s stones were in settings with an eye toward re-sale in the future, Riley said.
When it comes time to sell a diamond, “people want to see it in a setting, looking pretty,” Riley said. The Breeses “didn’t want to wear it around, but people do.”
The settings in which the Breeses bought some of their colored diamonds were allegedly engineered to make the stones appear of higher quality and value than they actually were, the lawsuit said.
For example, a the couple purchased in early 2015 a pair of natural pink diamonds solely on Moradi’s recommendation, the lawsuit said. The couple bought the diamonds for $975,000, which Moradi told them was an “unbelievable” price, compared to the $1.3-million being asked for them in mid-2014. When the couple had the stones assessed this year, the were valued at $176,398.
Earlier this year, the Breeses had the pink diamonds removed from their settings to prepare them for sale, the lawsuit said. In doing so, they discovered that the diamonds “were set in platinum painted pink to make the stones appear to be of a much stronger and more valuable color saturation,” the lawsuit alleged.
In another example, which the lawsuit described as “egregious,” Moradi sold the couple a “fancy intense blue diamond” set in a ring for $8.2 million in 2015. The lawsuit said Moradi claimed he was getting a deal on the stone, which he said was worth at least $10 million.
In early 2017, an independent estimate by an expert jeweler placed the blue diamond’s value at about $4.4 million, the lawsuit said. Early this year, the couple had the stone removed from its reflective setting and learned that it was worth even less.
Outside the setting, the diamond’s blue color was much less saturated than it had appeared in the ring, and its appraised value was only $2.5 million, the lawsuit said. The best price the couple was able to get from respected and notable colored diamond dealers throughout the world was $3.75 million.
The Brees’ lawsuit seeks at least $9 million in damages, punitive damages according to proof at court, restitution or disgorgement of any money Moradi unjustly obtained from defendants, and other relief the court deems just, the lawsuit said.
News Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune