Tampa, Florida – Stanley Tipton (45, Ohio) has pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with a violation of the Clean Diamond Trade Act. Tipton faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. His sentencing date has not yet been set.
The Clean Diamond Trade Act prohibits the import into and export from the United States of rough diamonds not regulated by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), an international certification scheme for the regulation of trade in rough diamonds. One of the purposes of the KPCS is to protect the legitimate trade in rough diamonds and to prevent trade in so-called “blood diamonds,” which are diamonds produced and sold to fund rebel movements and terrorism worldwide and especially in several countries in Africa. The United States is a participating country adhering to the KPCS.
Member countries participating in the KPCS are required to use a document referred to as the Kimberley Process Certificate (KPC) in the import and export of rough diamonds, a certificate with a specified format that identifies individual shipments of rough diamonds and certifies them as being in compliance with the KPCS. The KPC is required to record the country of origin of the diamonds, the carat weight and mass of the diamonds, their value in U.S. dollars, the name of the diamond exporter or importer, and the governmental authority issuing.
According to the plea agreement and other facts presented at the plea hearing, in 2019, Tipton engaged in a series of discussions with an undercover Homeland Security Investigations special agent (UCA) to supply KPCs to the UCA, who was then posing as a broker interested in securing documents, to help smuggle up to 100 carats of diamonds into the United States. Tipton told the UCA that he had contacts in Tanzania and Namibia and could arrange for the purchase of KPCs to “legitimize” the smuggled diamonds. When informed that the UCA’s “people” desired a certificate from a particular country, such as Tanzania or Sierra Leone, Tipton assured the UCA that he could make that happen but would require additional money to “grease” people on the ground in Africa. Ultimately, Tipton provided the UCA with what appeared to be two KPCs that represented that the subject diamonds had been handled in accordance with the provisions of the KPCS for rough diamonds. One KPC bore the purported seal of the Guinean Ministry of Mines and Geology, the other KPC was purported to be from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Mineral Resources. However, both KPCs were false and fraudulent documents provided by Tipton to the UCA to assist in the importation scheme, in violation of the Clean Diamond Trade Act.
“This investigation and prosecution sets an international precedent regarding the Clean Diamond Trade Act,” said HSI Tampa acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Sibley. “This case is the result of significant teamwork between HSI special agents and the Department of State, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Tampa International Airport Police and the Middle District of Florida United States Attorney Office.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security – Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.