Indian-American jewellers convicted of staging fake robbery

New York: Two Indian-American jewellers have been found guilty by a court here of staging a phony robbery inspired from Hollywood flick `Snatch` to get their hands on USD 7 million of insurance money and face up to 15 years in prison.

"Jewellers Atul Shah (49) and Mahaveer Kankariya (44) were undone by the very video security equipment they had bunglingly tried to destroy," the New York Post reported quoting the verdict by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber following a three-week bench trial on Friday.

Shah and Kankariya, who were inspired by the 2001 Guy Ritchie film `Snatch` to claim USD 7 million of insurance money from Lloyd`s of London, face up to 15 years in prison for the New Year`s Eve, 2008 heist.

They were found guilty of seven counts of grand larceny, insurance fraud and other crimes.

"It`s clear to me that this was a conspiracy," Justice Faber told the two men.

Prosecutors say that Shah and Kankariya hired gunmen dressed as Hasidic Jews to carry out the robbery with fake guns.

In the movie, actor Benicio Del Toro and other diamond thieves disguise themselves as Hasidic Jews.

Shah and Kankariya got caught because they failed to destroy the surveillance footage that showed them emptying a safe before the fake robbers came on the scene, officials said.

The two men, now bankrupt, had poured drain cleaner over the security recordings but technicians were able to salvage the tape.

The video also shows the duo walking together into the kitchen where the surveillance device was stored just two hours before the robbery. Then, the video image from one of four cameras begins to flicker.

More damaging, The Post, reported was footage of jewellers methodically pulling shoe box-sized jewellery storage boxes off the five shelves inside a refrigerator-sized safe.

"It was telling evidence of guilt, it seems to me," Farber said. "The rest of the robbery, frankly, looks like a joke."