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Judge Expected To Clarify Ownership In Fight Over Rare Emerald

LOS ANGELES ( — A Los Angeles County judge is expected to determine ownership rights for an 840-pound Brazilian gem.

KNX 1070's Ed Mertz reports seven claims have been made on the rare Bahia Emerald, which has been appraised at $372 million.

Judge Expected To Clarify Ownership In Fight Over Rare Emerald

Two judges previously determined after separate non-jury trials that claimant Anthony Thomas was not entitled to the stone, leaving an investment group and gem buyer Mark Downie as the remaining contestants.

Lawyer Steven Smith said his client, Thomas, paid $60,000 for the emerald but he never received the jewel and thought it had been stolen.

A judge in April 2011 tentatively dismissed Thomas' claim, saying his story was simply not credible. The judge was later sworn in as a federal district judge and replaced by current Judge Michael Johnson, who declared a mistrial because he wanted to hear the case himself and make an independent ruling.

Investment group F&M Holdings has emerged as the apparent frontrunner for legal ownership, with a trial involving Downie set for November.

Attorney Andrew Spielberger said if the group wins, the giant emerald will likely be put up for sale.

"I envision it being offered in an international context," Spielberger said. "Certainly not gonna restrict it to a United States purchaser."

The Bahia is one of the world's largest emeralds with about 180,000 carats and stands about three feet tall. The gem has had a long, circuitous journey since Thomas had himself photographed with it in a carport in Brazil in 2001.

The gem is now being held in storage by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department until the case is resolved.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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