Ex-jewel thief says of Kim K's purloined baubles: 'They're gone.'

Psst! Hey, buddy, wanna buy a 20-carat diamond ring that once belonged to Kim Kardashian?

No, it's not going to go down like that, says ex-jewel thief-turned-crime-prevention advocate Larry Lawton. Alas, for Kardashian, because that might make it easier to recover the $10 million-plus in jewelry stolen in a terrifying armed robbery at her luxury Paris apartment on Sunday.

What's likely to happen to the jewels stolen in the Kardashian heist?

The baubles are almost certainly headed out of the country, if not already, Lawton predicts, including the new $4.5 million diamond ring Kardashian just got from husband Kanye West. The stolen bling might be broken up or even re-cut, making it harder to recover them.

"They’re gone," says Lawton, an ex-con who says he was once the biggest jewel thief in the USA from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s but now runs Reality Check, a Florida-based program to help deter teens from lives of crime.

"Within a few days, they're gone. They're fenced. You're looking at (a specialized and organized) distribution network, that's how you get rid of high-dollar things. You don't go to a guy on the corner and say, 'Hey, I got this ring from my grandma.' "

Who would buy such high-profile stolen jewels?

Buyers might not know they're hot. Necklaces could be broken, the stones taken out and re-set so they're no longer recognizable, Lawton says.

"A 3-carat diamond can go for $100,000," he says. "A ring with a big diamond could be (reset) in a different way, say, in a pendant. A jeweler could re-cut it but the cut means everything in a diamond."

Wouldn't the diamond ring have identifying marks?

Maybe, but it depends on whether that was arranged before it was sold, says Kristin Mahan, a spokeswoman for the Gemological Institute of America, which assesses high-value gems and issues certificates of authenticity.

"If a client requests, GIA can laser inscribe a diamond with its GIA report number, (which) can been seen under 10x magnification with a jeweler’s loupe," Mahan said in an email to USA TODAY. "It is possible for someone with skill, experience and diamond cutting/polishing equipment to polish off the inscription."

But there are other ways to identify a gem, she says. "When requested by law enforcement, we can use other characteristics of the gem — even if it has been re-cut — such as weight, measurements, proportions, polish, symmetry, color, clarity and fluorescence to determine a potential match to a diamond that has been reported lost or stolen."

Were the jewels real?

Unclear, but sometimes celebrities who own fabulous gems have fake copies made to wear in public, says Lawton.

"Lots of people have 'double jewelry,' it's made of cubic zirconia," Lawton says. "They wear that in public and if they're going, say, to the White House, they wear the real thing. Some insurance companies even mandate (having fakes made) for security."

But Lawton believes the Kardashian thieves were too well prepared to have risked a robbery if they thought the jewels were fake. "Why rob them if it’s a piece of glass or it’s all fake?" he says. "They're not taking that chance if it's not real."

Did all of the purloined baubles belong to Kardashian? 

Still unclear. But it's common for jewelers to lend high-dollar bling to high-profile celebrities to show off on red carpets and other public forums as a form of advertising. Kardashian was much in the public eye in the days before the robbery because she was in France to attend Paris Fashion Week.

"There's a good chance that some items were on loan, and usually there is a loan agreement or contract setting out the obligations (in case of theft)," says Owen Carragher, a former prosecutor and now a partner in Clyde & Co., an international law firm that specializes in insurance cases involving stolen fine art and jewelry. "Many contracts require the person to be responsible on an all-risk basis for the merchandise. The first thing (Kardashian) has to do is look to see if she has world-wide coverage."

However, the diamond ring, a gonzo 20-carat emerald-cut diamond made by jeweler Lorraine Schwartz, did belong to Kardashian; West gave it to her last month and she posted selfies of herself with it on her social-media accounts before the robbery.

Were the jewels all covered by insurance? 

Also unclear. But if they were, the insurance companies are likely to be the most ticked off about the heist (besides Kardashian and West), says Lawton.

Not that they're talking. For instance, AXA, the Paris-based insurance behemoth that specializes in insuring fine art and jewelry, refused to comment specifically on the Kardashian heist, according to spokeswoman Rosalind Joseph.

Carragher believes Kardashian "almost certainly" had insurance, and the procedure after such a theft is standard: Report it to the police and notify her insurers, who will appoint an adjuster who will investigate the loss, get a list of the stolen goods and liaison with the police. Eventually, Kardashian (or the owners of borrowed jewels) would put in a claim.

"There are many, many instances where the property is recovered almost right away, and when that happens, it would not be part of the claim unless they were damaged in some way," Carragher says. "And if they have particular meaning for her (such as the ring), she might wish to have them back as opposed to a claim being paid."

Could insurers decline to pay?

There are lots of rules and clauses in an insurance contract, Carragher says.

Depending on what the police and insurance investigations find, the circumstances under which these jewels were stolen — Kardashian's bodyguard was not with her and she had been open on social media about where she was and what she had in the days before — might provide a reason for insurance not to pay or pay only part.

Who were the assailants ?

There are still many unknowns in the heist and who did it is only one question. There were five men in total, dressed like police and wearing masks. So far, they're still at large, French police said Tuesday.

Were they a team of the notorious Pink Panthers? The loosely-organized gang of jewel thieves is considered by Interpol to be the largest and most successful in the world, blamed for a half-billion dollars in stolen bling since 1999. Interpol in Paris declined to speculate on that question Tuesday in an email to USA TODAY.

Lawton is skeptical, largely because he thinks the Panthers are more the smash-and-grab type of thieves who tend to hit high-value jewelry shops.

"But they (the Kardashian thieves) were professionals, they were not there to kill anybody," Lawton says. "They knew what they were doing, just to coordinate their police outfits and their getaway."

Police say they escaped on bicycles but Lawton says they likely rode a few blocks, then threw the bikes in a van or truck and took off. "The best thing to do is switch modes of transportation right away (so) if you came on a train, get into a car, and so on," Lawton says.

The aspect of the robbery that puzzles him most is why they needed five men to pull it off. It's possible the thieves anticipated far more security at the apartment building than the lone concierge they forced to lead them to Kardashian's apartment.

"It doesn't make sense — they could have done that (crime) with two or three guys and it would have looked less suspicious" to anyone watching, he says.

KING


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