University Park-based wholesale jeweler Diamond Doctor has earned a lot of free press over the past eight months. But ask owner and Preston Hollow resident David Blank, and he’ll tell you “any publicity is good publicity” doesn’t apply here.
In October, Nashville-based lawyer Brian Manookian launched the websites diamonddoctorlawsuit.com and dallasdiamonddoctorclassaction.com in an attempt to solicit former Diamond Doctor customers who believe they were sold over-graded diamonds to sue the jeweler.
And while Diamond Doctor did sell diamonds graded by EGL International — an Israeli diamond-grading laboratory that shut down in 2014 because of claims of inconsistent grading standards — Blank says he has done nothing wrong.
Diamond Doctor sells both jewelry and loose diamonds. According to Blank, when a customer makes a purchase, they receive a certificate from the independent grading laboratory marking the diamond’s grade.
“Diamond Doctor is not the EGL, GIA, or any other rating agency,” Blank confirmed. “We disclosed the certificates to the customer at the time of sale and priced them accordingly. We offer a lifetime trade-in guarantee.”
While Blank claims Manookian is solely after a paycheck, Manookian argues he is trying to do a service for the consumers who bought over-graded diamonds.
In response to the accusations, Blank has filed several lawsuits against Manookian, Brian Cummings, and their law firm Cummings Manookian PLC for charges including racketeering, extortion, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, barratry, appropriation of name and likeness, and libel.
According to Manookian, Blank’s lawyers contacted Manookian
not long after the sites went online.
“Within hours I had gotten a number of voicemails threatening to sue me,” he said.
Manookian and the Cummings Manookian firm filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit Diamond Doctor filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in February arguing, “This is merely the latest round in The Diamond Doctor’s ongoing campaign to intimidate Brian Manookian and his law firm … for their efforts to expose The Diamond Doctor’s fraudulent business practices. At its root, this is a controversy over diamond grading and a long running scam by certain retailers …”
Meanwhile, Blank learned from Howard Solomon of Solomon Brothers in Atlanta, Georgia that Solomon Brothers and other jewelers across the country had encountered similar campaigns from Manookian.
A court document filed in March in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by Diamond Doctor said, “Solomon told Blank he approached Manookian and agreed to pay Cummings Manookian $20,000 a month for a period of five years, totaling $1.2 million.”
The document explains that the jewelers hired Manookian so the lawyer would be conflicted out of representing anyone willing to sue the retailers.
Blank said he decided to reach out to Manookian and discuss the possibility of retaining him to halt the campaign against Diamond Doctor.
According to Manookian, Blank begged to have the lawyer represent him. But Blank says Manookian tried to extort $3 million from him.
Finally, Manookian agreed that if Blank paid $25,000 a month over the next 10 years, he would represent the jeweler. But Blank never signed the proposed contract.
The campaign broadened to include social media, a temporary advertisement on the homepage of the Dallas Morning News website, and fliers and door hangers, which were distributed throughout the Park Cities and Preston Hollow area.
A court document filed by Blank in Dallas County Court in May says, “Manookian’s Facebook posts targeted the Diamond Doctor’s employees, asking them, ‘Do you work here? Ask David Blank if you could be personally liable for the fraudulent sale [of diamonds].’”
While Manookian is spearheading the campaign to amass people to sue Diamond Doctor, fellow Nashville lawyer Mark Hammervold will handle the litigation. Hammervold couldn’t give an estimated date, but said “litigation is going to be starting soon.”
While Blank is adamant he is innocent of selling over-graded diamonds, he also mentioned that there are no legal standards for diamond grading.
“The truth of the matter is, there is no statute, no law, no anything,” Blank said.
According to Blank, Diamond Doctor, which is the official jeweler of the Dallas Cowboys, has received several letters and emails since the campaign started.
“We’ve just got a tremendous outpouring of support from every corner of the community,” he said. “I’m not going to have to clean up my conscious, my morale.”
Regardless of whether the case is taken to court, Blank stands firm in his resolve.
“We’re not going to settle,” Blank said. “We believe that the further along we go, it just dissipates.”