Ralph Esmerian goes to prison

Ralph Esmerian, fourth-generation jewelry dealer and former owner of the Fred Leighton chain, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for double pledging and reselling collateral used to secure more than $210 million in loans.

Ralph Esmerian arrested in November

Manhattan federal Judge Denise Cote also ordered Esmerian to perform 1,800 hours of community service and forfeit $20 million. Esmerian is 71.

Accused of defrauding creditors while seeking bankruptcy protection for Fred Leighton, Esmerian pleaded guilty in April to wire and bankruptcy fraud and concealing assets.

“Ralph Esmerian tried to game the financial system and the bankruptcy process for years to finance his businesses,” Manhattan District Attorney Preet Bharara said. “As a result of his frauds, the lenders who trusted him have lost tens of millions of dollars.”

The sentence puts the final disgrace on a respected family legacy. Esmerian and his forefathers were among the world’s most famous gem and jewelry experts, relied on by top-tier jewelry houses like Cartier. For the fascinating back story on Esmerian and a look at some of the treasures that made his fortune and reputation, check out these posts:

Bankruptcy sale of Ralph Esmerian’s historic jewelry

Ralph Esmerian: rise and fall of a jewelry connoisseur

Ralph Esmerian: lost legacy of jewels

Christie’s sells Fred Leighton jewels

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