Drew Brees climbed into the witness stand in a San Diego courtroom on Thursday afternoon and recounted how, as he sees it, a jeweler exploited their friendship to sell the New Orleans Saints' quarterback extremely overpriced diamonds.
He spoke on the first day of testimony and arguments in a civil trial pitting Brees against La Jolla, California, jeweler Vahid Moradi and his company, CJ Charles Jewelers.
Brees missed offseason workouts at the Saints’ training facility in Metairie this week to deliver his perspective on his dealings with Moradi — sworn statements that are crucial to his quest to recover millions of dollars that he and his wife, Brittany, claim the jeweler owes them.
Drew Brees was absent from Saints' OTAs on Tuesday.
Brees explained how Moradi and CJ Charles Jewelers sold the couple $15 million worth of diamonds — one of which was a ring costing more than $8 million — between 2012 and 2016.
Brees — who began his NFL career in San Diego when the Chargers played there and still maintains a home there — on Thursday said he became friends with Moradi over the course of about 15 years. He trusted the jeweler so completely that he invested roughly $350,000 in a software company recommended to him by Moradi and considered investing in another store with him, according to Jeff McAdam, a reporter for San Diego’s Fox television news affiliate.
Brees, 40, testified that Moradi portrayed the diamonds as investments that would rapidly appreciate and could weather downturns in the economy like the financial collapse of 2008.
“(Moradi) said there’s a new asset class that is being created with these things,” Brees testified Thursday, a clip from the news broadcast showed. “It’s a great place to put your money, especially since the stock market has tanked, the housing market has tanked, there was nowhere to put your money."
The trouble was that an appraiser in 2017 told Brees and his wife that they had paid roughly $7 million more for the collection than it was worth. The appraiser estimated that the $8 million ring was worth roughly half of that.
“He forms the opinion, frankly, that Drew’s being ripped off,” one of Brees’ attorneys, Rebecca Riley, said during opening arguments.
Among other things, Brees’ suit claims Moradi admitted to substantially marking up the diamonds, saying that the prices were what he believed they could be resold for in several years.
But the Breeses rejected that explanation and cut ties with Moradi, whom they also accused of pocketing $244,000 they had given him for a watch they backed out of buying.
They sued Moradi and his company in April 2018, citing fraud and breach of contract as well as violations of California business laws.
Moradi has maintained his innocence throughout the dispute, arguing it was actually the appraiser — Aldo Dinelli — who defrauded Drew and Brittany Brees.
Moradi’s side alleges that Dinelli advised the Breeses to sell their diamonds at bargain prices to a dealer with whom Dinelli was in business. The ploy afforded a Dinelli associate a great deal at the Breeses’ expense, Moradi’s side claims.
Moradi’s attorneys also said that Brees was simply upset the jewelry he invested in was not appreciating in value as quickly as he wanted.
“My client is a retail jeweler,” one of Moradi’s attorneys, Peter Ross, said during Thursday's openings, according to a video clip from the San Diego Fox affiliate. “The prices he charged for each and every item were well within the normal range for jewelry sales. No one is going to take the stand and testify otherwise.”
Both camps discussed possibly settling the case on Monday but didn’t strike an agreement, leading to jury selection and the start of the trial.
Brittany Brees sat at the plaintiff’s table with her husband.
The trial is expected to continue through next week.
Brees — who earns an annual salary of about $25 million — has passed for the most yards in NFL history since eclipsing Peyton Manning’s career mark last season.
After spending five seasons in San Diego, he joined the Saints in 2006, helping them reach their only three NFC title games in franchise history and delivering an MVP performance when they won Super Bowl 44 on Feb. 7, 2010.
Brees’ legal clash with Moradi is not the first time he’s claimed someone scammed him. He settled a lawsuit in 2014 in which he alleged that former teammate Kevin Houser had talked him into investing $160,000 in nonexistent film tax credits.
Other Saints personalities — including coach Sean Payton and ex-tight end Jeremy Shockey — also reached settlements with Houser.
Note: Prior reports about this case cited figures showing Brees sought to recover a $9 million discrepancy in value. But updated figures cited in court Thursday adjusted the figure to about $7 million.
Drew Brees is accusing a California jeweler he met early in his NFL career of conning him out of $9 million over the years by badly overchargi…