A Yellowknife married father of three has been handed an 18-month jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to stealing almost $400 thousand worth of diamonds from the Diavik sorting facility in Yellowknife.
40-year-old Samson Mkhitaryan received his punishment in Supreme Court Wednesday for what the judge described as the largest-ever theft in the Northwest Territories in terms of the dollar amount.
He also noted that the theft was out of character for Mkhitaryan who had no previous criminal record.
The judge pointed out that Mkhitaryan confessed to the crime before ever being arrested or charged for it.
Court heard Mkhitaryan stole 29 rough, uncut diamonds in total on seven different days between December of 2017 and February of last year.
He was working as a sorter and polisher at the Diavik facility on Diamond Row near the Yellowknife Airport at the time.
Court heard that while he was working with the diamonds he would use slight of hand to press them into his palm or between his fingers to conceal them and then put them in his pocket while pulling something out of his pocket, like his cellphone, at the same time.
Mkhitaryan believed that would block at least two security cameras from recording what he was doing.
He then replaced the stolen diamonds with small stones that he carried inside in his pockets.
Mkhitaryan then took the diamonds into the washroom and concealed them somewhere on his body before he left work for the day, court heard.
It’s believed he ultimately became a suspect after security personnel reviewed the video.
It was also revealed that it was not uncommon for Mkhitaryn to work with 200,000 carats of diamonds at a given time, worth some $17 million.
Evidence showed he hid the diamonds between plumbing pipes in his home and after Mounties initially could not find them, he drew them a map.
The 29 diamonds, worth exactly $393,045.23, were recovered and it’s believed they will now be returned to Diavik.
Mkhitaryan’s lawyer said his client was hoping to sell the diamonds to raise money for his parents medical bills back home in Armenia.
However, he added that Mkhitaryan wasn’t sure how to go about selling the diamonds and that when he did find out their high value, he was shocked.
His lawyer had called for an 18 month sentence while the Crown asked for a sentence of between two and two and a half years in jail.
The maximum sentence for theft over $5,000 is ten years in prison.
There is a sizeable Armenian community in Yellowknife, many of them, including Mkhitaryan coming to the city to work in the diamond polishing industry.
Supporters of Mkhitaryan told CKLB outside court that they are saddened and disappointed by the sentence but added they felt the judge’s decision was fair.
Officials from Diavik were also in court but left before providing any reaction to the sentence.
The judge also ordered than Mkhitaryan provide a sample of his DNA for the national data bank.
He recommended that Mkhitaryan be considered for a temporary absence program which could allow him to leave jail to go to work.