SAN DIEGO — A La Jolla jeweler intentionally misled and defrauded NFL quarterback Drew Brees and Brees’ wife out of millions of dollars when he sold them several diamonds at far above their actual value, the football pro’s lawyer said Thursday, while a defense attorney alleged his client gave an accurate account of the diamonds’ worth, but an independent appraiser scammed the couple by alleging the jeweler ripped them off.
Opening statements were delivered Thursday in the civil trial between the Breeses and jeweler Vahid Moradi, who the Breeses say sold them $15 million in diamonds between 2012 and 2016.
However, when the couple took the diamonds to an independent appraiser in 2017, they were told that the diamonds were worth about $9 million less than they had paid for, according to Brees’ attorneys.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego Superior Court last year, accuses Moradi and his company, CJ Charles Jewelers, of selling Brees and his wife Brittany several supposedly investment grade diamonds that were supposed to appreciate in value.
On the witness stand, Brees testified that he and Moradi had developed a close friendship starting in 2003, when Brees began purchasing Panerai watches from Moradi’s store. Around 2008 or 2009, Moradi began advising Brees to invest in colored diamonds, of which Brees testified he knew little about, making him uncertain.
Brees said Moradi told him the diamonds would appreciate anywhere from 150 to 200 percent, which was an opportunity the Breeses felt they should latch onto, as Brees “knew he can’t play football forever,” his attorney Rebecca Riley said.
Brees testified, “I always try to see the best in people and unfortunately that’s probably why I’m in this situation right now.”
Riley said Moradi represented himself as an expert in investment grade diamonds, and betrayed Brees’ trust in his expertise.
Among the most egregious examples Riley pointed to was a diamond ring Moradi sold the Breeses for $8.1 million that was actually worth $3.75 million.
Another diamond Moradi allegedly claimed was from Europe, when it was actually purchased from a dealer in Orange County, she said.
“Drew trusted Moradi,” Riley said. “He held him in esteem. He believed him to be a friend.”
Moradi’s attorney, Peter Ross, said Aldo Dinelli, a Houston-based jeweler the Breeses consulted to appraise the diamonds, was a “con man” who scammed the couple.
The attorney alleged that Dinelli advised the Breeses that Moradi had scammed them, even though he did not know how much the Breeses had paid for the pieces.
“How could he possibly know that Drew Brees had been ripped off?” Ross asked the jury. “He couldn’t. But he had accurately sized up Drew Brees to be an easy mark.”
Dinelli allegedly advised the Breeses to sell the pieces — now at prices below their actual worth — to a wholesale dealer associated with Dinelli, according to court filings from Moradi’s attorneys.
Further, Ross alleged that the trial would not yield any evidence to suggest that Moradi overcharged the Breeses or inaccurately represented the true value of the diamonds. Ross said each diamond came with certificates from the Gemological Institute of America, a nonprofit organization that evaluates the quality of diamonds.
Ross said any discrepancies between what Moradi paid to obtain the diamonds and what the Breeses paid him, was part of a standard markup that is commonplace within the industry to allow retailers to cover business expenses, according to the attorney.
Ross also alleged that Brees and Moradi did not have the close relationship that Brees claimed they had, and that it was more of a strict business relationship.