SAN DIEGO — A San Diego Superior Court jury awarded more than $6.1 million in damages Friday to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife in a lawsuit they filed against a La Jolla jeweler who they said sold them $15 million in diamonds at far above their actual value.
Following two days of deliberations, jurors found Vahid Moradi liable for defrauding the couple by claiming to be an expert in acquiring investment- grade diamonds, several of which he sold to the Breeses 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 $6.7 million less than they had paid, according to Brees’ attorneys.
The 40-year-old Brees, who played quarterback for the San Diego Chargers from 2001-05, was not present when the verdict was read, during which the panel awarded him $6,130,767 in damages, but did testify during the early part of the trial. Brees is currently in training camp for the 2019 NFL season.
During closing arguments on Wednesday, Brees’ attorney, Andrew Kim, told jurors that Moradi claimed he was an expert in colored diamonds, and could negotiate with sellers around the world to acquire diamonds that were expected to appreciate in value.
Among the most egregious examples Brees’ attorneys 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 was actually purchased from a dealer in Orange County, Kim said.
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.
Ross said Dinelli informed Brees that he’d been ripped off, then offered up some diamonds of his own for Brees to purchase.
“Dinelli is supposed to be an independent expert, not a competitor to (Moradi’s company) CJ Charles,” Ross said.
Though Brees’ attorneys alleged that an oral agreement existed between Brees and Moradi that Moradi would secure investment-grade diamonds for Brees, Ross said that thousands of texts and emails make no mention of such an arrangement. Instead, Ross says Brees got “just what he paid for,” and that many of the diamonds were purchased as gifts for Brees’ wife, Brittany.
Further, 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.