The Williamsville jeweler who pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud at least 89 customers out of $630,000 over a 16-year period by selling them fake diamonds and other counterfeit jewelry asked a judge last week to assign him an attorney at taxpayer expense.
Paul Blarr, who had previously hired an attorney at his own expense, asked for an assigned counsel under the program that assigns attorneys to indigent defendants who cannot afford to retain an attorney.
Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka rejected the request, noting that the money from the fraud scheme has not been recovered and there was no indication that Blarr had spent the money on drugs, gambling, a sick relative or lavish lifestyle.
The judge also noted that the 47-year-old businessman has lived frugally, raising the question of what happened to the money.
Authorities say it is not clear what he did with the money.
Blarr’s retained attorney, Charles J. Marchese, represented him at last week’s court appearance on his request for assigned counsel.
After Blarr pleaded guilty May 9 to one count of scheming to defraud his victims from 1998 to this past March, as well as to 10 counts of third-degree grand larceny, Marchese questioned the $630,000 prosecutors pegged as the total amount fraudulently gained by his client.
“We believe the numbers may have been inflated by using appraised values as opposed to monies actually paid to my client,” he said then.
After the plea, the judge allowed Blarr to remain free on $1,500 bail so he can make arrangements to make restitution before the July 25 sentencing. He faces up to 50 years in prison.
Blarr has promised to pay restitution to those he sold fake diamonds and jewelry at real diamond prices, prosecutors said.
He also has promised to take care of other victims who left jewelry with him to repair or sell on consignment and who received fake items in return or never got back their items or the money from consignment sales, prosecutors said. If he does not return the items and the money, he could face additional charges, they said.
Blarr was arrested March 21 following an investigation by the Amherst Police Department into allegations that he was selling phony diamonds and other jewelry through his RSNP Diamond Exchange and Amherst Diamond Exchange.
In publicizing the arrest, Amherst police asked customers to check the authenticity of any jewelry they bought from Blarr and to contact police. Eventually, almost 200 former customers contacted detectives, police said.