$338K ring stolen near Boston pawned in Montgomery County; World Bank exec's son accused
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) — The son of a World Bank Group executive sold a $338,000 diamond ring stolen from a home nearly 500 miles away from Washington, D.C., Montgomery County Police say.
On March 16, 2016, a woman in Marblehead, Massachusetts, reported her home had been burglarized. More than $1 million in jewelry was missing. The victim told police she was clueless as to who had targeted her property, situated in the wealthy coastal suburb of Boston.
Ten months later — in January 2017 — the victim's friend, a certified gemologist, spotted one of the stolen pieces, a platinum diamond engagement ring, on a database for fine jewelry dealers. The ring, which features a single 4.91-carat cushion cut diamond, is valued at $338,000.
The gemologist told authorities that the advertised diamond contained the same "features" (weight, color, cut and clarity) as the one stolen nearly a year prior. Diamonds are akin to a human "fingerprint" with no two being identical, the gemologist said.
Armed with a big break in the case, investigators contacted the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), headquartered in Carlsbad, California. The non-profit agency, which strives to protect buyers and sellers of gemstones, echoed "with certainty" what the victim's gemologist friend had already told police.
The GIA's records indicated that the stolen $338,000 ring was sold on March 26, 2016 — 10 days after the residential burglary — at the Diamond Exchange USA in North Bethesda. The jeweler, located across the street from the former White Flint Mall, paid a 25-year-old man by the name of Wendpulumde Bouda, $21,000 for the prized diamond, daily logbooks show. The transaction sheet included Bouda's Potomac home address.
During an unrecorded interview, Bouda told Montgomery County investigators that he received the 4.91-carat diamond engagement ring from "friends." When detectives pushed for more clarity, Bouda clammed up and requested an attorney be present for additional questioning. Earlier this month, Montgomery County Police filed formal charges of Theft $100,000 Plus and Theft Between $10,000 and $100,000 against the young man.
“It was like 5:30 in the morning. I saw a bunch of guys with vests on and police written on the back," said Matthew Gibeson who lives across the street from Bouda and witnessed police serve the arrest warrant. “His hands were behind his back. They got in a van and drove away. The whole thing only took like 20 minutes.”
Bouda lives at his mother and father's $1.2 million home along the 12300-block of Briarbush Lane in Potomac. On Thursday, a copy of the 25-year-old's criminal charging document was visible on the dashboard of a Mercedes Benz SUV parked in the driveway.
Bouda's mother, Adele Bouda, answered the front door of the expansive brick home. She explained her husband, Seydou Bouda, is the former ambassador to the United States for the western African nation of Burkina Faso. He served in that post from 2011 until 2014, before transferring to an executive position at the World Bank Group.
A biography on the World Bank's website states Seydou oversees operations in nearly 25 African nations, including Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Niger, Senegal and Togo. The international financial institution, which provides loans to countries for capital projects, did not return an email seeking comment.
Adele Bouda welcomed ABC7 into her home where numerous framed photographs hang in the dining room, family room and living room, featuring her and her husband smiling besides heavy hitting politicians like Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and John Kerry.
Speaking by telephone Thursday afternoon, Wendpulumde Bouda denied any wrongdoing in the pending criminal matter, yet declined to make clear how he came in possession of the snatched $338,000 diamond ring. Bouda further explained he is a full-time student at Montgomery College, studying construction management to “better his future.”
"I need to speak with my attorney, and then I will call you back," Bouda said before hanging up.
A co-owner at Diamond Exchange USA told ABC7 that his employees do their best to vet individuals selling pricey jewelry, but added that profiling people based on appearances is a very slippery slope.
"It doesn't benefit us to purchase stolen items, this right here is a perfect example," co-owner Justin Carmody said.
During its more than 20 years in business, Diamond Exchange USA has fallen victim to thieves selling stolen jewelry on a handful of occasions, but Carmody stated the Bouda case is the costliest to date.
"This is the most in terms of one item, definitely," Carmody said.
As a gesture of good will, Diamond Exchange USA says it provided a full refund to the jeweler it unknowingly sold the stolen diamond to. Consequently, the Montgomery County business is now out the $21,000 it gave Bouda. It hopes to recover the loss through court ordered restitution.
This is the second go-around at prosecuting Bouda. In March 2017, authorities in Massachusetts charged the 25-year-old with two counts of receiving stolen property valued over $250. Last month, however, a judge dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence proving Bouda was in Massachusetts around the time of the 2016 high-stakes burglary.
"The Maryland case is essentially the same, but with better jurisdictional control," said Carrie Kimball-Monahan, the director of communications for the Essex County District Attorney's Office in Massachusetts.
When reached by telephone, the Marblehead Police Department's chief declined to comment about his agency's ongoing burglary investigation. Kimball-Monahan stated she does not believe investigators have filed charges against anyone in connection to the actual break-in.
According to court documents, police managed to intercept the stolen $338,000 diamond at J-Birnbach Jewelry and Diamond House in New York City. The owner told police he purchased the sparkling 4.91-carat gemstone from Boneta, Inc. — also located in New York City. It’s unclear if any of the remaining $650,000-plus in stolen jewelry has been recovered.
Bouda, who is a native of Burkina Faso, was booked in Montgomery County on May 15. Records show he was released from jail the same day on a $2,600 cash bond.
Bouda is scheduled to appear in Montgomery County District Court on July 2, for a status hearing. He faces up to 40 years in prison.