Bring on the bling

The so-called King of Bling is coming to Detroit — along with his lawyers and a list of character witnesses that reportedly includes some big-name stars.

Jacob Arabov, the New York City jeweler known for his diamond-crusted watches and large pendants, was indicted along with 40 others in the Black Mafia Family case. (See our cover story "BMF," MT, Feb. 21, 2007.) He's accused of accepting cash for jewelry from the Flenory brothers and failing to file the proper tax forms in an effort to conceal that the payments cam from drug money.

The feds allege that the brothers — Demetrius "Big Meech" and Terry "Southwest T" Flenory — started their drug ring in Detroit 15 years ago and grew it to a nationwide network that moved millions of dollars in cocaine. The brothers headed an ostensibly legitimate music business called BMF Entertainment that was headquartered in Atlanta, but the feds say BMF also stood for Black Mafia Family, the name of the drug operation. Arabov, also known as "Jacob the Jeweler," sold jewelry to the Flenory brothers or their "nominees," court records show.

The trials will be in Detroit because that's where the investigation started, federal investigators say. "Detroit is the hub, the central spot from which the spoke comes out in the case. That's the beginning of it," U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said during a hearing Monday.

According to court records, Arabov was born in Uzbekistan and moved to the United States with his family as a teen. He dropped out of high school to work to help support his family. He trained as a jeweler, welding bracelets together for $125 a week and keeping a notebook of drawings of designs. Several months later, he and a cousin started their own jewelry business that eventually grew into Jacob & Co., now supplying jewelry to more than 400 retail stores worldwide, including his own location on East 57th Street in Manhattan.

"Some of Jacob's clients in his earliest days were hip-hop recording artists who, like Jacob, were at the threshold of their careers," his lawyers assert in court papers. "Counsel has no hesitation in believing that Jacob Arabov, whose story is the personification of the American dream, simply had no reason, no incentive and absolutely no inclination to involve himself in the charged conduct in this case."

Arabov's attorneys deny he was involved in any drug activity. "There is no allegation, nor will there be even an iota of proof, that Mr. Arabov himself participated in any of the narcotics activities charged in the indictment," his lawyers wrote in court filings.

His attorneys sought to have his case separated from the other BMF defendants and to have it moved to New York City. "There is absolutely no allegation that Mr. Arabov ever met or associated with any individual or conducted any business transaction, in the Eastern District of Michigan — or for that matter anywhere outside the City of New York," his attorneys have said. Travel would provide a hardship, it's argued in court filings, for Arabov, his wife who will testify, and other character witnesses who live in New York.

Judge Cohn on Monday agreed to sever Arabov's case from other defendants, but insisted the trial stay here. His attorney spoke with News Hits as he rushed to catch a plane home.

"The only thing I'll give you for attribution is we're pleased that Mr. Arabov will be given the opportunity to proceed to trial alone, if he proceeds to trial," says Benjamin Brafman, Arabov's New York-based attorney. "Why? I think a trial of 40 defendants together is unmanageable and it always creates extra prejudice with evidence that comes in that has nothing to do with your client. So the fact that he has a right to be on trial alone is something we're pleased about. We appreciate the court's decision."

According to published reports, Arabov's witness list includes some of his customers including David Beckham, Mariah Carey and Sean "Diddy" Combs.

How will Detroit's staid federal courthouse handle such flair?

"You have to have ID to get into the building, picture ID. Cell phones are not allowed," says Jerrie Savin, site supervisor for Akal Security, which contracts with the U.S. Marshals for service at the courthouse. "No tape recorders or cameras."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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