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Police: Bizarre jewel heist was inside job

By Evan Buxbaum, CNN
  • On New Year's Eve 2008, two people disguised as Hasidic Jews robbed jewelry store
  • Heist was actually an elaborate inside job set up by the store's owners, police say
  • NYPD says co-owners were $1 million in debt and six months behind on their rent
  • Two men charged with grand larceny, insurance fraud, falsifying business records
  • Robbery
  • Crime
  • New York City

New York (CNN) -- Two men have been arrested in a bold and bizarre jewelry store robbery involving crooks who disguised themselves in Hasidic Jewish attire, complete with hats and false beards, police announced Tuesday.

But all was not as it seemed, according to police. The heist was actually an elaborate inside job set up by the store's owners, who were $1 million in debt and six months behind on their rent, police said.

The New York Police Department announced Tuesday that Atul Shah, 43, and Mahaveer Kankariya, 43, both of New Jersey, have been arrested on charges of grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records.

The two men, co-owners of the Dialite Imports jewelry store in Manhattan's diamond district, are in custody, authorities said.

The costumed robbers connected to the crime remain at large.

According to NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, two armed men casually walked into the commercial office building where Dialite Imports was located on the afternoon of December 31, 2008. They were dressed in traditional looking Orthodox-style clothing and quickly gained access to the store's safe, spray-painting two security cameras in the process.

The two thieves appeared to make off with about $4 million in diamonds and other jewels.

Immediately after the robbery, Shah told the New York Post that his insurance company had instructed him to refrain from commenting about the heist. "They told me I cannot say anything right now," he said at the time.

But police said Tuesday that investigators became suspicious of the incident when it was discovered that Shah and Kankariya got a new insurance policy just before the apparent robbery.

The owners of the jewelry company hired the two men "to play the armed robbers and dressed them up as Hasidic Jews to avoid causing suspicion," Browne said.

The robbery and security camera footage of the two supposed orthodox outlaws gained particular attention because of the similarities between the staged robbery and the 2000 movie "Snatch," in which diamond thieves donned similar outfits for their burglary.