A valuable diamond, of which a half-dozen people have claimed at least some ownership, is going to the government. A judge issued a ruling in the 43-carat Golden Eye jewel.
They may be a girl’s best friend, but at the end of the night, the Golden Eye diamond is going home with the U.S. government.
It’s no ordinary run-of-the-mill diamond store gem.
The stone checks in at 43.5 carats — a behemoth by diamond standards. By comparison, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones’ engagement ring included a 10-carat centerpiece, while Jennifer Lopez settled for a paltry 6-carat ring from former beau Ben Affleck.
How much is the Golden Eye worth?
“It’s all over the place,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Bulford said. “It could be $3 million, or it could be $20 million.”
The diamond is so unique that it may be difficult to place a conventional value on it, though authorities plan to have it formally appraised. In the end, pieces like it are worth only as much as someone is willing to pay for it.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge John R. Adams ruled the federal government can keep the diamond that previously had been forfeited to authorities by a jury. FBI agents had seized the stone in 2006 during a money-laundering probe that ultimately sent Stark County businessmen Paul Monea and Michael “Mickey” Miller to prison.
Details of investigations were movie of the week material.
Monea, an aging former millionaire from the Alliance area, was fresh out of prison for a tax-evasion conviction. He’d reached financial heights by marketing gas-grill igniters for pain relief and pitching Tae Bo tapes for fitness guru Billy Blanks. All that had crumbled, and Monea was trying to reinvent himself.
What he did have was a rather large diamond.
YOURS, MINE AND OURS
It’s unclear how he acquired it. But beginning in 2005, he started to use the gem as collateral in business dealings. When the judge ruled the government could keep the diamond this week, he also denied claims from six others who’d argued during the last two years that they owned all or a piece of the Golden Eye.
“During these proceedings, the court witnessed a diverse, colorful array of individuals,” Judge Adams wrote in his decision.
Claimants included: Monea’s two children, Blake and Brooke; clay-mining operator, Gerald Deleo, who’d loaned Monea $500,000; David Moore, a New York pastor who practiced martial arts. Moore’s Charity Fellowship of Truth Church, which loaned Monea money to buy a house in exchange for it, argued the church held a half interest in the diamond.
“There is little question that at least (some of them) were duped by Paul Monea,” the judge wrote.
He added that it’s clear the diamond was used in a money-laundering scheme, which legally allows forfeiture to authorities.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said J. Scott Broome, Deleo’s attorney, who said he’s not decided if he’ll appeal.
Page 2 of 2 - The U.S. Marshals Service will try to sell the diamond. Denise Bortnick, administrative officer for the Marshals Northern District in Ohio, said they likely won’t use the same auction house or on-line bid system that sells most forfeited property.
“I think we’re going to do it different ... to get the right perspective,” she said.
Bulford said 20 percent of the proceeds will go to the Marshals Service. The remainder, he said, will go to a federal asset forfeiture fund. Portions could be divvied to local agencies that assisted, such as the Stark County Sheriff’s office.
Miller, now 68, and Monea, 62, were arrested in December 2006, concluding a three-year undercover investigation into their dealings.
Miller, who’d owned several auto dealerships, pleaded guilty to 37 counts of money laundering for using his businesses to help launder money for drug dealers dating to 1999. Adams ruled Miller must forfeit $2.7 in assets and sentenced him to 57 months in prison. Miller was released early last month.
In exchange for that reduced term, Miller testified against his friend, Monea.
A jury convicted Monea in May 2007 on four counts of money laundering. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison — a decision his attorneys have appealed. They’ve claimed he was set up by the government.
Monea’s role was limited to his attempt to sell the diamond and boxer Mike Tyson’s former house in Trumbull County for $19.5 million.
Problem was, the buyer was an undercover FBI agent claiming to be the front man for South American drug dealers. It’s illegal to make a deal when the seller — Monea in this case — knows or believes the money is “dirty.”
During a November 2006 meeting in a hotel room at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas, Monea told the undercover agent he didn’t need to know the buyer’s background. According to court documents, Monea said:
“Drug dealers are businessmen, but drug dealers also have other businesses that are legitimate ... . So, I’m selling this to a businessman. OK, and he is paying me with legitimate money.”
Monea went on to joke with an associate about his failing hearing aid.
“So anyhow ... the point is, I don’t have a problem doing any business with rug dealers, do you?”
The man replied: “Rug dealers? No, I love rug dealers.”