840 Pound Emerald Landed in Court

Just before Christmas, detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department pried open a crate outside a warehouse to find something they had been chasing for months: an 840-pound Brazilian emerald that had been reported stolen.

Now, if they could just figure out who owns it. So far, at least five people have come forward to say it’s theirs.

“It seems like the more we talk to people, the more people claim to have ownership over this thing,” said Lt. Thomas Grubb, who heads the sheriff’s investigative team on the case. “We haven’t determined who’s not a suspect, really.”

Unable to determine who the real owner is, Lt. Grubb decided to keep the emerald locked up while the investigation proceeds. Meanwhile, a Los Angeles civil court is scheduled to hear from different claimants in the case on Tuesday.

Lt. Grubb, who had spent the bulk of his 26-year career conducting narcotics investigations, first got onto the case last September. A distraught man named Larry Biegler had called the sheriff’s office to say that his giant emerald had been stolen from a Los Angeles-area warehouse where he had been keeping it. It was worth nearly $400 million, he said.

Lt. Grubb’s detectives began investigating.

The emerald, they determined, was in the possession of two businessmen named Todd Armstrong and Kit Morrison, whom detectives tracked to a small town called Eagle, in western Idaho. When the detectives arrived in Eagle, Mr. Armstrong was in the process of trying to sell the emerald to a buyer. “We’ve run into a small snag,” Mr. Armstrong says he told his buyer.

The Idaho men said the emerald belonged to them. They said in an interview they paid Mr. Biegler $1 million for diamonds he never delivered. Mr. Biegler had put the emerald up as collateral, they say, for the stones. When the diamonds didn’t materialize, they picked up the emerald from the warehouse in Los Angeles. They showed investigators a stack of documents they said prove their claim. See full article at wsj.com…

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