A La Jolla jeweler being sued by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, for allegedly lying to them about the value of diamonds he sold the couple has claimed in court records that Brees needed cash and tried to extort it from him.
Jeweler Vahid Moradi and his companies CJ Charles Jewelers and Vahid Moradi Inc. recommended and sold to the couple about $15 million in investment-grade diamonds — which, the couple learned last year, were only worth about $6 million, according to the ongoing lawsuit filed earlier this year in San Diego County Superior Court.
The discrepancy came to light last year after the couple hired an independent appraiser to determine the stones’ market value ahead of the couple’s annual review of their finances, according to the complaint. Drew Brees, who played for the San Diego Chargers from 2001 to 2005, then confronted Moradi about the discrepancy.
In a court record filed late last month, Moradi attributed the couple’s lawsuit to a case of buyer’s remorse and a need for quick cash.
Brees first accused Moradi of wrongdoing during a phone call he made to the jeweler in July 2017, according to the court filing. The accusations came on the heels of a conversation in which Brees allegedly told Moradi that he was “cash poor,” according to court records.
The quarterback allegedly acknowledged that the jewels were of the finest quality, but he “threatened that he would ruin Moradi’s reputation with a lawsuit unless Moradi agreed to pay Brees one million dollars a year for seven straight years,” Moradi’s court filing said.
The threat amounted to extortion, Moradi’s filing alleged.
Moradi reminded Brees that he had purchased the stones as long-term investments with the understanding that it would take time for their value to appreciate, according to the court document. Moradi had repeatedly warned Brees not to buy certain high-priced items unless he could comfortably keep them for at least 15 years.
Every center-stone diamond Brees purchased from Moradi was accompanied by a Gemological Institute of America certificate of authenticity, according to Moradi’s court filing. Moradi attributed the alleged discrepancy in the value of the stones to a flawed assessment by the couple’s independent appraiser.
The filing asked the court to rule in Moradi’s favor and order the Breeses to pay for his attorneys and court costs.
In a phone call Wednesday, Drew Brees told the San Diego Union-Tribune he made three attempts to reach a settlement with Moradi before he took the matter to court. He said all his settlement offers were made in a professional way and did not involve any attempted extortion. Moradi dismissed his offers, Brees said.
Brees went on to say that he was not — and is not — in need of quick cash, as Moradi alleged in court filings.
“My wife and my family and I are very comfortable and our [financial] situation is quite good,” Brees said.
Brees has earned some $195 million in his 17-season NFL career, according to the website Spotrac.com.
Earlier this year, Brees paid $264,000 for a rare John Wooden Purdue jersey, and loaned it to Purdue to display “forever” at Mackey Arena, according to news reports. Late last year, the Breeses funded construction of a fully-inclusive park for children of all abilities in New Orleans.
The diamonds referenced in the lawsuit were sold in settings so they would be attractive to buyers when the couple put them up for resale in the future, Brees said. But the diamonds rarely left the vault to serve their secondary purpose as jewelry.
“These were not common jewelry purchases that we’re talking about,” Brees said. “These were investment-grade diamonds, just like you would invest money in real estate.”
Brees said he relied on Moradi’s expertise on the quality of stones in the context of their potential as investment products.
“We were creating an asset class together,” he continued. Moradi “broke our agreement, he defrauded me, and he misrepresented every investment we entered into.”
In their lawsuit, Drew and Brittany Brees alleged Moradi had confessed that he charged the couple a substantial markup for the diamonds. But Moradi “insisted, unabashedly, that he had done nothing wrong because he charged the couple the price at which Moradi expected the jewelry could be resold in 10 to 15 years,” the lawsuit said.
But the settings in which the Breeses bought some of their colored diamonds were allegedly engineered to make the stones appear of higher quality and value than they actually were, the couple claimed in their lawsuit.
For example, the couple purchased in early 2015 a pair of natural pink diamonds solely on Moradi’s recommendation, the lawsuit said. The couple bought the diamonds for $975,000, which Moradi told them was an “unbelievable” price, compared to the $1.3-million being asked for them in mid-2014. When the couple had the stones assessed this year, they were valued at $176,398.
Earlier this year, the Breeses had the pink diamonds removed from their settings to prepare them for sale, the lawsuit said. In doing so, they discovered that the diamonds “were set in platinum painted pink to make the stones appear to be of a much stronger and more valuable color saturation,” the lawsuit alleged.
The Breeses’ lawsuit seeks at least $9 million in damages, punitive damages according to proof at court, restitution or disgorgement of any money Moradi unjustly obtained from defendants, and other relief the court deems just, the lawsuit said.