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Sheriff's investigators recover $370-million emerald

December 26, 2008 |  6:34 pm


The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has recovered a stolen 850-pound emerald worth an estimated $370 million.

The stone, known as the "Bahia Emerald," was unearthed in Brazil and is believed to be the second-largest stone of its kind in the world, according to the Sheriff's Department. The gem, which was once auctioned on EBay, has also been the focus of numerous lawsuits.

The gem was stolen from a secured vault in South El Monte in September and later warehoused in Las Vegas, said Lt. Thomas Grubb of the Major Crimes Bureau.

"The way it was stolen was through falsification of paperwork," Grubb said. "They flimflammed some papers and were able to get it released from the vault."

The investigation first led sheriff's officials to Idaho and then to Las Vegas. When the suspects learned that deputies were hot on their trail they agreed to hand over the gem. On Dec. 19, sheriff's investigators arrived in Las Vegas with a court order and took possession of the stone. No arrests were made.

The emerald has since been transported back to Los Angeles County and will remain in the custody of the Sheriff's Department until the matter of its ownership is resolved.

"A judge is going to have to rule on who the rightful owner is," Grubb said. "We got one side telling us it belongs to them, and another side saying no, it belongs to us."

-- Monte Morin

Photo: The "Bahia Emerald" was originally mined in Brazil. Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department