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Lloyds Won't Have to Pay Diamond Seller's Claim

September 30, 2006|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles jury Friday decided that Lloyds of London does not have to pay more than $1 million to a diamond seller the company said staged a robbery at his downtown jewelry store to bilk the insurance company.

After three days of deliberation in which many jurors said they had been unable to sleep because they felt so torn about the case, the jury voted 9 to 3 in favor of the insurer.

Harry Yildiz, 67, said he was alone in his shop in 2004 when a stranger with a gun burst in, tied him up and emptied his safe of diamonds and jewels. He had sued Lloyds after it denied his insurance claim.

But Andre Cronthall, who represented Lloyds, said the alleged heist was full of "red flags."

He said Yildiz's business was struggling, giving him a motive to stage a robbery. And Cronthall suggested Yildiz may have dispatched his son to Aruba to sell off the purportedly stolen jewels on the cheap.

He also said the bag carried by the robber in a surveillance tape seemed too small to accommodate all the jewels, and that the robber was inside Yildiz's store for 14 minutes, an eternity for a robbery.

As the verdict was read, Yildiz let out a loud sigh.

His son Scott, sitting next to him, sank his head into his hands. Both declined to comment, but Marc Brumer, the Turkish immigrant's attorney, said the verdict meant "my client's American dream has been shattered."

"I'm disappointed in the system," he said. "There was no proof."

But lawyers for Lloyds said they felt vindicated -- especially, they said, because Yildiz submitted a claim for $800,000 five years ago, which was paid -- a fact they had not been allowed to reveal during the trial.

jessica.garrison@latimes.com

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