Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Kaushal Niroula and The Gay Grifters

Marin County Jewel Heist

There's nearly always some rich man in a bar ready to be duped. Or at least a man with a rich mother who doesn't keep an eye on her things.

Stephen Valentino calls himself a magazine and video producer. He says he had a nationally-syndicated radio show and that he's worked in television, films and on the stage. Kaushal Niroula says the middle-aged Valentino never had a real job and relied on his financial help.

Valentino lived with his elderly mother in Marin County. Ina Mae Valentino was certainly comfortable. Niroula allegedly stole $300,000 in jewelry from her, including a 6-carat emerald, a 1.5-carat diamond ring and a ruby-covered pine cone broach.

Police quickly caught up with Niroula. The District Attorney requested that bail be set at $2 million, but the judge set it at a mere $150,000. Niroula or his other friends came up with the money, as well as the $50,000 bail that held him on immigration charges.

Niroula and Danny Garcia were temperamental men with a volatile relationship. They squabbled. Garcia was friends with Valentino and offered to testify for the prosecution during one of his and Niroula's spats. Niroula evened the score by fingering Garcia for a crime at a San Francisco limousine company that had been defrauded of $20,000. The limo drivers would later regale the press with tales of Garcia and Niroula's lavish nights out and their back-seat escapades.

In August 2008, Niroula pleaded not guilty on charges of theft and embezzlement of a dependent adult. A preliminary hearing was set for that September. Deputy District Attorney Linda Witong threatened Niroula with five years in prison and deportation. But when key witnesses failed to show up, Niroula was released on his own recognizance.

A preliminary hearing finally started in February 2009. Niroula attempted to fire his lawyer, a move that Judge Kelly Simmons denied. Valentino testified against him. Seenivasan Ramakrishnan, a jewelry dealer, declined to incriminate himself. During investigations, he'd denied buying the jewelry from Niroula, but later handed it over to investigators.

The case has not yet been tried. Meanwhile, Niroula and Garcia's list of alleged crimes just kept growing.

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