| Crime |

The Jeweler, the Diamond Heist, and How Richardson Cops Decided It Was All a Scam

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The surveillance camera shows the whole room, not that there's much to see. Mainly just a desk, an office chair, and a door leading to another, smaller room in the back. The footage from March 1, 2012, begins right at 4 p.m. with Michael Meyler, a 44-year-old Russian-born jeweler, occupying the chair.

After 10 minutes, Meyler opens the door and lets someone in. The man sits down and Meyler goes back and forth to the other room, first retrieving three packets, the contents of which the visitor inspects with tweezers, then a couple of cups of coffee, then more of the packets. He's out of sight in the back room when the man's hand hovers briefly over Meyler's coffee cup. He stands up and leaves a few minutes later.

Not much happens over the next 20 minutes. Meyler sips from his cup of coffee. He nibbles from a package of biscotti. He begins to type on his laptop. As the minutes tick away, his movements become noticeably more sluggish and clumsier. He makes a couple of phone calls, each dial more labored than the last. Then, he drops his handset, leans back in his chair and falls asleep. If not for the occasional twitch, he could be dead.

Then, at 4:54 p.m., a second figure again enters the picture. This one wears a black suit and a black brimmed hat, his face obscured by a mask or black cloth. He's all business. He walks to the back room with a black bag and kneels in front of the safe, which he can be seen emptying into the bag. He pauses as he walks out of the building to wipe something from the desk. During the entire 15-minute visit, Meyler never stirs.

When he does finally rouse himself, he fumbles with the phone several times before finally managing to dial 911. When police arrived, they find him on the floor, groggy, disoriented and missing $540,008 worth of diamonds.

From the outside, there was nothing to suggest that Meyler's office contained anything more valuable than a desk and a computer. It occupied an anonymous suite in a charmless strip of Nixon-era offices on Central Expressway in Richardson. To reach it, you had to pass through a door, which was often locked, then through Meyler's door, which was nearly always locked. In the wholesale jewelry trade, it pays to be discreet.

Meyler unlocked the door on the afternoon of March 1 only because he had a scheduled visitor. A couple of days before, he told police, he'd sold an $8,000 diamond to a New York jeweler named David Nassimian. The two had arranged a second meeting to discuss a followup transaction, which never actually happened. Instead, Meyler and the surveillance video suggested, he'd been drugged and robbed.

He wasn't sure why someone would do such a thing. He was new to the diamond business and had no enemies and didn't owe anyone money. Most of the diamonds were on loan; he owned only a few of the gems.

The Richardson cops quickly decided the story wasn't so simple. As paramedics were treating Meyler -- he was ultimately diagnosed with an ischemic attack, a catchall for brief episodes of neurological dysfunction -- they pulled one of the officers aside and suggested he might be faking it.

And there were other things that didn't quite fit: how, in the surveillance video, Meyler kept stirring his black coffee; the burglar alarm, which can be set to go off at certain times, that alerted police when Meyler was asleep and the room was empty; the fact that a typically careful diamond seller had left both his door and safe unlocked after his visitor had left.

Detectives decided to give Nassimian a call. First, they checked out the number Meyler gave them and discovered and found that it was for a prepaid TracPhone. Then, they found a real number for Nassimian, who told them he hadn't been anywhere near Richardson on March 1 and that Meyler's story smelled like bullshit. He texted officers a photo of himself which matched the passport they had on file and bore no resemblance to the man spotted in Meyler's office.

With that, their investigation shifted from robbery to insurance fraud. Their questions to Meyler became decidedly more pointed. Why, in the entire two months that he'd been leasing the Richardson office, had Meyler only had one customer? What was his connection with Michael Polyak, the Plano diamond dealer who had loaned him many of the stolen gems? And why were they involved in multiple insurance claims together, including one that netted $244,000 after a reported home burglary? What about that time he sued Dillard's for defamation after being arrested for shoplifting at Valley View Mall? (In the suit, he says he had no intention of taking those items he'd placed in a shopping bag.) Also, would he agree to take a polygraph?

To that last question, Meyler's attorney responded with a regretful no. "First, his language skills would undoubtedly make any results questionable," he wrote in an email to detectives. "Second, I am not convinced that his drugging has not resulted in possible long-term damage that is still evident today. ... Finally, I see no clear upside to him having this test. He has no recollection of the events after being knocked out, and his memory even after being treated is spotty for several days."

Meyler was drugged, for the record. A blood test came back positive for temazepam, a type of benzodiazepine used to treat insomnia. The question was, who put it there?

Investigators had their suspicions. They figured that Polyak and Meyler had staged a diamond heist in order to defraud their insurance company. There just wasn't enough evidence to prove it, so they closed their case.

It's not clear from the police file what happened with Meyler's insurance claim. Presumably, it was denied. But he hasn't yet given up on getting at least some money out of the whole ordeal. Earlier this year, he filed a lawsuit against the Texas Attorney General's Office for denying him benefits through the state's crime victim's compensation program.

The stakes in this case are relatively small. If he wins, he could be entitled to a maximum of $6,468.49 for medical expenses suffered as a result of the robbery. Otherwise, he'll have to write that off as a loss.

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