Shortly after they began dating, Tom Girardi presented $800,000 in diamond earrings to cocktail waitress and aspiring actress Erica Chahoy.
“It was the first significant gift I gave him,” Girardi recalled to tax officials years later.
The earrings set the tone for the private-jet-and-haute-couture lifestyle the pair will enjoy as a married couple.
Now, with the demise Regarding the relationship and fate of Girardis, the jewels become a plot point in the quest to uncover the finances of the disgraced lawyer.
The trustees overseeing the bankruptcy of Girardi’s famed firm, Girardi Keys, have moved to confiscate a pair of diamond stud earrings, planning to sell them to compensate defrauded customers and other creditors. Erica Girardi agreed to leave him at first, but last month, her lawyer announced she was changing tactics and would fight for the baubles in court.
The current location of the earrings – a safe deposit box – is one of the few special things about them. Neither the trustee nor Erica has described these in detail. There has been no confirmation of the jewelry, despite the star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” being a red-carpet regular, who was photographed by the paparazzi conducting her life in Los Angeles.
When Times reporters attempted to trace the origins of the gems, they found a tangled web of contradictions that pointed to a deeper mystery.
By his own account, Tom Girardi liked to shower his third, much younger wife with expensive jewelry.
The diamond earrings she had given him at their 2000 wedding, when he was 60 and she was 28, were part of a collection that included rings, bracelets, watches and other jewelry, which totaled him one The bar was estimated to be $15 million. ,
The earrings and other pieces came from MM Jewelers, a small shop housed in Warren of Similar Outfits in LA’s Jewelery District. As an advocate for the store’s owners, the Menzilcian family acknowledged, “the relationship is very old.”
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Paying attention to the store on a recent morning, Ered “Mike” Menzilcian said that his father, 85, had a decades-long relationship with the 83-year-old lawyer. Menzillion declined to provide specific information as to the cut or clarity of the diamonds in the earrings, but he said the two stones – one for each ear – were “near flawless”, adding that “they were very large. “
According to court records, Erica Girardi had earrings until at least 2007, when she began her career as pop singer “Erica Jane” by her husband.
It is at this point that the fate of diamond studs turns hazy.
In one version of events, records submitted to the Bankruptcy Court by Tom Girardi, earrings were stolen in early 2007 while the couple was out of town for a three-day weekend.
“Fortunately, almost all of Erica’s major jewelry was in a huge vault that could not be opened or moved,” Girardi wrote in a 2012 letter to tax officials that was later filed in bankruptcy court. The earrings were not in the safe, the lawyer said, “but in a small cup in her dressing room. The thieves took the earrings, my two watches, two of her watches and a bracelet.
In that version of events, Girardi made nearly identical replacements to MM Jewelers and paid for them with a check for $750,000 on March 6, 2007. It was drawn into bank accounts for customers in drug injury cases, and it is the use of those settlement funds that led US Bankruptcy Judge Barry Russell to call the purchase of the earrings a “crime.” Russell ordered the earrings to be confiscated and sold.
But other records reviewed by The Times show that the version of events is untrue. Records from Pasadena police and an appellate court indicate that the money was transferred to the jeweler long before the earrings were stolen.
Pasadena police said only one burglary was reported at Girardi’s home in 2007, the theft of jewelry during a three-hour window on the night of December 28. That date is nine months after the $750,000 check to MM Jewelers.
Police records are consistent with Girardis’s own timeline, with his homeowners union prosecuting in 2009. The couple claimed in that lawsuit that diamond earrings and several other jewelry were stolen from a glass jar on the bathroom counter on December 28.
The date of the burglary was cited repeatedly in the trial, which lasted three years, in an appellate court, which dismissed the couple’s claims against their HOA in 2012. In this version of the theft, Girardis was not on vacation when the crime occurred, but at dinner, and the earrings were “worth $1 million”, according to the appellate decision.
By then, state tax officials were asking questions about the theft and earrings. In response, Girardi sent an officer to the Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento, which he claimed to have stolen documents, including a sworn declaration to “M&Ms” along with a copy of a $750,000 check that Mike Menzillion confirmed the use of the money. to get replacement. Girardi did not include a police report or receipt for the purchase of jewelry, but did give direct tax authorization to Thomas Layton, then a top investigator for the State Bar of California. Girardi wrote that Layton “assisted us in this situation as a friend.”
In his announcement, Menzilcian said: “The matter was of serious concern and Tom asked me to try to imitate the stolen earrings. I did exactly that.” The jeweler added, “If the earrings are bought at Cartier or any similar shop, the actual value of the earrings is much higher.”
It is not clear what happened to the tax investigation. A spokesman for the Franchisee Tax Board said he could not comment on individual cases. But he said generally that the agency “can reach taxpayers as part of its administration of the California personal income tax.”
Erica Girardi’s attorney, Evan Borges, declined to comment on the apparent discrepancy. But he has said in earlier court papers that the earrings were “innocently obtained” and that the bankruptcy trustee was trying to indict his client “for events 15 years ago at a law firm in which Erica had no part.” ”
Borges has made several arguments about why Erica should not have been required to surrender the earrings, including that the purchase of the jewelry occurred long before the bankruptcy trustee had any claim on them.
Asked for an explanation of the conflicting theft accounts, Seven Gorginian, a lawyer for Menzilcian, said, “Girardi’s version of the facts is probably not credible, despite the ‘sworn declaration’. In light of what has happened, his The character and credibility speak for themselves in regards to their version of what happened.”
The bankruptcy court’s interest in earrings is not the only instance in which MM Jewelers’ links with Girardi have come under scrutiny.
According to Menzilcian and a family friend, Berge Boyajian, about a decade ago, Girardi wanted to buy a diamond ring. To pay for the stone, Menzilcian borrowed money from Boyajian. At the time, Boyajian, a lawyer, was involved with those overseeing a settlement fund for the victims of the Armenian genocide. Without the approval of the Settlement Board, he transferred a fund of $150,000 to MM Jewelers, which repaid Boyajian a year later.
Other problems with the transaction and settlement were reported to various law enforcement agencies. Menzilcian said that he was eventually asked to testify before a grand jury, where he said under oath that he used the money to buy a diamond to put in Girardi’s ring.
There is no record of a grand jury issuing an indictment. Boyajian pleaded no contest to a felony and misdemeanor charge in connection with making false claims to the State Bar about Bridge Loans; He ultimately served no jail time.
According to the family’s attorney, Gorginian, Girardi remained a client of MM Jewelers through at least 2017 or 2018, when he estimated “six or seven” pieces of Menzillions. Counsel for the Menzilcians said the family complied with a subpoena to hand over the records of Girdhari’s purchases to the bankruptcy trustee, although they no longer have the paperwork for the old transaction.
“The trustee is basically doing a lot of investigative work trying to find out where” [Girardi] Take the money, who has the jewels, have Erica reveal all the jewels, ”said Gorginian.
Although $750,000 or $1 million diamond studs might sound strange, Jason Arsheben, owner of Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive jewelry boutique Jason, said they’re “totally within the realm of possibility.”
“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s a natural phenomenon in the luxury market,” said Arsheben, who created the Rams Super Bowl ring. He said that he has sold earrings with 10 carat diamonds on each ear.
“It’s too gaudy,” he admitted. “It pulls on your ear lobe, and after a while you may need to stitch it up.”
Behind the counter at his store, Menzilcian said he and his family had done nothing wrong and had “nothing to hide.” The jeweler said he did not wish to divulge detailed information about Girardi or any other client, as discretion is important in his profession.
“I work with a lot of high-profile people,” he said. “I’m in a business where a husband comes with his lover, with his mistress, with his wife.”