By  on December 9, 2008

FBI agents last week arrested two Manhattan Diamond District businessmen and 10 other people in an alleged conspiracy to hijack Federal Express trucks they believed contained millions of dollars worth of diamonds.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office said in a complaint that Brian Greenwald, president of Doppelt & Greenwald Diamonds, and Roni Amrussi, of diamond wholesaler Davidov & Amrussi, helped organize the armed robbery of a FedEx truck in December 2007 and a thwarted holdup planned for last Thursday. Authorities were able to stop the robbery based on information gathered over 12 months from surveillance, wiretaps and two cooperating witnesses in the 2007 case.

Authorities said in the first robbery, a pair of gunmen hijacked the FedEx truck they believed contained diamonds and kidnapped the driver. The thieves, however, could not unload the tractor-trailer’s contents, abandoned it in Brooklyn and released the driver. None of the truck’s containers were missing or open when police found the vehicle.

Amrussi’s attorney had no comment. Attorney Murray Richman, whose office represents Rivera and Greenwald, said both would plead not guilty at a hearing set for today.

In the latest case, authorities said they arrested members of the crew who were to take part in the robbery shortly before it was to happen. Three of the suspected gunmen had arrived from Puerto Rico. The arresting officers found a 9 mm. pistol in the Chevrolet Trailblazer in which the suspects were traveling near a FedEx facility on Manhattan’s West Side.

Authorities said Greenwald helped plan both hijackings with Amrussi and an acquaintance, Hector Rivera. Law enforcement officers arrested Greenwald and Amrussi near their Manhattan homes and Rivera near his home in Queens. The three men have been charged with conspiracy and robbery, which carry potential 20-year prison sentences. Rivera and Amrussi face additional firearms charges, which could result in life imprisonment. The nine other alleged conspirators face similar charges.

In the federal complaint, investigators also detailed a three-year-old robbery at Doppelt & Greenwald, in which they believe Greenwald was involved. Authorities said in November 2005 two gunmen dressed as FedEx deliverymen held up the company’s office at 580 Fifth Avenue and fled with about $4 million to $5 million in diamonds.

Greenwald filed an insurance claim that is still being investigated, naming Amrussi as the owner of some of the stolen goods. Authorities said Greenwald has failed two polygraph tests in that investigation and refused a third to be administered by police.

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