Birmingham-based jeweler who once auctioned Trump diamond busted in alleged $16M caper

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A jeweler to the stars who once auctioned the engagement ring President Donald Trump gave to ex-wife Marla Maples was arrested Thursday and accused of orchestrating a $16 million diamond caper, according to federal court records.

Joseph DuMouchelle

Joseph DuMouchelle, 58, owner of DuMouchelle Fine & Estate Jewelers in Birmingham, was released on $10,000 unsecured bond after making an initial appearance in federal court Thursday in connection with what the FBI describes as a complex financial crime involving millionaires, blue bloods and rare diamonds.

The criminal case accuses DuMouchelle, a scion of the influential family that founded DuMouchelle Art Galleries in Detroit, of engaging in wire fraud involving the purported sale of a rare 77-carat diamond dubbed the "The Yellow Rose."

A handcuffed DuMouchelle, dressed in jeans and a blue pullover, said little beyond answering basic questions while in court. His court-appointed lawyer, Colleen Fitzharris, declined comment to reporters.

The diamond is portrayed in a federal criminal complaint as a means for DuMouchelle to escape mounting financial problems, including money owed to a North Dakota business colleague.

The alleged crime dates to January when the man, Thomas Ritter, tried to get DuMouchelle to repay a $430,000 debt, according to the FBI.

That's when DuMouchelle pitched a deal that entailed buying "The Yellow Rose" diamond from a Texas family, selling at a profit and splitting the money, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court Thursday.

The emerald-cut gem, set in platinum with more than five carats of yellow and white baguette diamonds, would cost $12 million but could be sold for $16 million, DuMouchelle said, according to the court filing.

Ritter agreed to the deal and was supposed to receive 75% of the profit.

DuMouchelle's gemologist wife, Melinda "Lindy" Adducci, appraised the diamond and emailed the appraisal to Ritter, according to the FBI.

DuMouchelle, meanwhile, emailed instructions purportedly from Richard Drucker of Gemworld International, Inc. on how to wire money to a Bank of America account to buy the ring, the government said.

Ritter later received an email from DuMouchelle indicating the ring was purchased for $12 million on Feb. 6.

The investigation later led to Texas resident William Noble, who said he sold a $950,000 13-carat emerald-cut diamond to DuMouchelle on consignment last year. If DuMouchelle sold the diamond, Noble would be paid $950,000 and a share of any profits, according to the FBI.

Eventually, Noble asked for the diamond to be returned but DuMouchelle did not respond, according to the government.

Noble asked again and DuMouchelle said the piece had sold with a $50,000 profit, the FBI said. Noble received $100,000 as an initial payment but a $450,000 check bounced, according to the court filing.

On July 31, 2018, while Noble was on vacation, DuMouchelle arrived at the Texas man's store unannounced and left with 29 pieces of jewelry that were to be sold at a show.

"DuMouchelle subsequently listed the items through his online auction at a fraction of the cost of what Noble consigned them for," the FBI agent wrote in the court filing. "When Noble confronted DuMouchelle, he said it was all a mistake and he would correct it. Noble demanded return of the items."

DuMouchelle eventually returned 27 of the 29 pieces, a move that salvaged the business relationship with Noble, who sent more items for DuMouchelle to sell, according to the government.

Noble later demanded DuMouchelle return the additional pieces but, instead DuMouchelle refused or sent phony shipping numbers for the jewelry, the FBI said.

"By the end of 2018, DuMouchelle had approximately $12.5 million of Noble's items," the FBI agent wrote.

In February, Noble learned his merchandise was being sold by DuMouchelle for 20 cents on the dollar, the government said.

DuMouchelle denied selling the merchandise but told Noble he had a customer interested in buying "The Yellow Rose" diamond for $12 million. 

He asked Noble if he would take $10 million for the sale and wire $2 million back to DuMouchelle. Noble "felt this was improper and possibly illegal," so he declined the sale, the filing says.

That same month, Noble received six pieces back from DuMouchelle and a wire transfer of about $4.25 million for several pieces that DuMouchelle said he'd sold on Noble's behalf.

The investigation revealed that DuMouchelle's transfer to Noble was with proceeds from the $12 million Ritter had sent for the purported purchase of the yellow rose diamond.

Noble has made attempts since February to reach DuMouchelle and sent an employee to Detroit for two weeks to seek return of his items to no avail.

In April, DuMouchelle sent Ritter an email with a copy of the contract for the purchase and sale of the diamond. The contract revealed it was sold to “Jennifer H. Rands Trust” in Bloomfield Hills for $16.5 million.

DuMouchelle told Ritter that three wire transfers had been made by the purchaser.

A review of the bank account did not turn up any deposits or wire transfers associated with the purchaser, the filing reads. 

In an interview with the government, Noble said he did not send the diamond to DuMouchelle nor did he agree to sell it.

Ritter traveled to Detroit in April to see the diamond for himself. He was told by DuMouchelle that it was being housed at a Brink’s facility in Detroit and that the person in charge was on vacation so they could not see the diamond.

The filing also contains allegations of wrongdoing by DuMouchelle involving Jonathan Birnbach of JB International LLC in New York.

Birnbach had been buying and selling jewelry with DuMouchelle for about a dozen years and last fall entered into a consignment arrangement with him on jewelry from estates to be sold at auction.

Birnbach sent DuMouchelle about 12 wire transfers to purchase items at auction. To date, Birnbach has only received $500,000 from DuMouchelle. He's owed $2.5 million to $3 million, according to the filing. 

This is the 7.45-carat diamond engagement ring Donald Trump gave to his second wife, Marla Maples, an actress and TV personality.

The alleged crime unfolded while DuMouchelle underwent financial problems.

DuMouchelle and his wife filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy Oct. 11, listing almost $2.3 million in assets and $23.4 million in liabilities.

His property included a 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon worth $125,000.

The car, however, disappeared Oct. 6, five days before DuMouchelle filed bankruptcy, according to court records.

The Demon was "stolen in St. Clair Shores in Fishbones parking lot," according to bankruptcy records.

DuMouchelle has drawn headlines in recent years for different reasons.

Three years ago, DuMouchelle sold the 7.45-carat diamond engagement ring Trump gave to his second wife, Maples, an actress and TV personality.

The giant rock sold for $300,000 to an anonymous bidder at an auction at New York City's Lotte Palace Hotel.

The ring was originally sold in 2000 for $110,000 following the couple's divorce in 1999. Maples had DuMouchelle handle the first auction.

The American couple who bought the ring before asked the same auctioneer, DuMouchelle, to sell it.

DuMouchelle, son of the late famed auctioneer Lawrence DuMouchelle, has a roster of celebrity clients — that once included Aretha Franklin — and, according to his website, has sold notable pieces, including a silver necklace once worn by the actress Elizabeth Taylor in the film "Young Toscanini."

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.