NEW YORK – A jewelry wholesaler was arrested Aug. 5 for allegedly committing wire fraud and forging the seal of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The arrest is a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
Tejas Mehta, 36, the owner of Saritijediam Inc., doing business as Design Trends, is a jeweler who conducts business in Manhattan's diamond district. He is accused of allegedly forging the seal of CBP, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Mehta used the fraudulent CBP seal to allegedly steal approximately $1 million from his business associates and other diamond and precious stones wholesalers.
Mehta received diamonds, jewelry and precious stones from other wholesalers under consignment. Once in his possession, Mehta would sell the jewels. Instead of giving the proceeds to the owner of the merchandise as he had agreed to, Mehta allegedly falsely claimed that he could not return or sell the merchandise because it had been seized by U.S. authorities.
"The production and use of fictitious government documents and seals is a serious crime," said Terence S.Opiola, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility in the Northeast. "ICE OPR is committed to aggressively investigating these crimes and takes great pride in protecting the integrity of all ICE and CBP employees."
"IRS-Criminal Investigation is always eager to work with our federal law enforcement partners and share our financial investigative expertise," said Toni Weirauch, acting special agent in charge for IRS-CI in New York. "We are proud to work with ICE on this important investigation, especially because of its governmental integrity aspect."
According to court documents, one victim consigned $650,000 in diamonds to Mehta, who then allegedly made excuses and did not return the stones or any funds from the sale of the diamonds. Mehta told the victim's attorney that the stones had been seized by U.S. authorities. Mehta allegedly used the fraudulent seal to falsely state that the diamonds, precious stones and jewelry - which were consigned to him - had been seized by CBP.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.