A Michigan jeweler to the stars who twice auctioned an engagement ring Donald Trump gave to his second wife, Marla Maples, has been sentenced to 12½ years in prison for running a multimillion-dollar scam involving the sale of a 77-carat diamond.
Joseph DuMouchelle, who ran a well-known jewelry business outside of Detroit, admitted he fleeced several investors in the purported purchase of a huge diamond known as the “Yellow Rose,” pocketing the cash and using it to pay off his numerous debts.
“Mr. DuMouchelle was engaged in a desperate effort to repay creditors, and repeatedly made similar false representations to secure money and items to pay debt,” his attorney wrote in court filings arguing for a more lenient sentence.
Federal prosecutors, however, said the 61-year-old DuMouchelle utilized his years of experience in the jewelry business to operate a ploy to convince several of his clients that they were buying a stake in the giant stone.
“White-collar criminals may use sophisticated methods and apparently legitimate businesses, but their crimes amount to nothing more than lying to get money,” said Dawn Ison, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan. “Victims were often targeted because of their involvement in the jewelry investment, purchase, and auction trade, or were family members and friends of DuMouchelle.”
DuMouchelle’s attorney didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.
One victim, Thomas Ritter, the owner of an oil and gas exploration company in North Dakota, lost $12 million to the scam in 2019, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said DuMouchelle contacted Ritter, to whom he owed $400,000, and told him about a deal where he could purchase the “Yellow Rose” stone for $12 million from one seller and then sell it to second buyer DuMouchelle had lined up for $16 million. Ritter agreed, and DuMouchelle instructed him to wire the money to an account Ritter believed belonged to the seller but was actually DuMouchelle’s own account.
DuMouchelle then fabricated a phony bill of sale that purportedly showed the stone had been subsequently sold for $16 million, when in fact, the actual diamond — which prosecutors said was real — had never been purchased in the first place. DuMouchelle used the $12 million furnished by Ritter to pay back a number of debts he owed, and then stalled Ritter by telling him the proceeds of the sale would be coming soon, according to court filings.
An attorney for Ritter declined to comment.
Prosecutors said DuMouchelle ran a similar scam on others, taking in approximately $25 million in total.
Court papers revealed that DuMouchelle had saddled himself with multiple loans with extremely high interest rates and constantly struggled to come up with enough money to pay them back. In his own filings, DuMouchelle described the loans as “predatory.”
In a bankruptcy filing in 2020, DuMouchelle and his wife stated they had $2.3 million in assets and $23.4 million in liabilities.
In 2000, DuMouchelle helped Maples auction off the 7.45-carat diamond engagement ring Trump had given her before they married in 1993. The ring sold for $110,000.
In 2016, DuMouchelle helped the buyers sell the ring at auction to an anonymous bidder for $300,000.
DuMouchelle’s family had been longtime art dealers and jewelers in Michigan with celebrity clients that included Aretha Franklin and Elizabeth Taylor.