AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – An Amherst jeweler now admits he sold counterfeit jewelry, including fake diamonds, for the last 16 years.
Paul Blarr pleaded guilty Friday to first degree scheme to defraud and ten counts of third degree grand larceny. The District Attorney’s Office says the 47-year-old ripped off 89 people, who all told lost around $630,000.
In court, Blarr admitted selling counterfeit jewelry at his two companies, “RSNP Diamond Exchange” and “Amherst Diamond Exchange,” between January 1, 1988 and March 21, 2014, when he was caught and his companies were shuttered.
After his store was closed in March, Blarr’s attorney tried to claim Blarr was also a victim, arguing the jeweler believed he was selling real diamonds.
“We believe the investigation has to go beyond Mr. Blarr to where these diamonds originated and they were purchased under the belief that they were real,” said attorney Charles Marchese.
But shortly after that, news broke that Blarr may have sold other fake precious gemstones and gold-plated jewelry instead of solid gold. Police say when customers brought in gemstones or items for repair, Blarr switched gems or replaced them with a lesser quality.
He could face up to 50 years in prison, which is the maximum sentence under New York State law for a non-murder offense, when he is sentenced on July 25.
The DA’s Office says prosecutors will now explore other issues concerning Blarr’s businesses, including items given to him for repair or for sale on consignment.
Blarr has promised to cooperate with Amherst Police to help make sure the items are returned to their rightful owners.
“He really holds the key to his jail cell in his hands. If he is genuinely cooperative, if he genuinely tries to make restitution and makes close to the full amount of restitution, I would anticipate that the judge would be more lenient with him,” said DA Frank Sedita.