Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

If a magician takes your luxury watch without your knowledge, is it theft? Promutuel believes no. Experts decide the question, including the illusionist Luc Langevin.

A thief uses magic to steal Rolexes

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Laurent Mattel thought he had sold his watch for $15,000, but the thief instead gave him an envelope with flyer clippings.

  • Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis (View profile)Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis

Speech synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate spoken text from written text.

On the camera video surveillance, we see a man press the doorbell and wait patiently for the door to be opened. Only his eyes are visible under the dark cap that hangs over his face. He wears a mask and clutches a black pouch containing $15,000 in cash.

The man named Marius, at least according to his Facebook profile which will be deactivated an hour later, came to respond to an ad on Marketplace for the purchase of a Rolex Datejust.

His courteous demeanor inspired confidence in Laurent Mattel, who can be seen opening the door and inviting him to enter his residence in Blainville. He told me he wanted to buy my watch to please his wife. I didn't suspect anything, he lets it go.

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In this surveillance camera image provided by Laurent Mattel, the criminal is preparing to enter his home with his black pouch.

Once in the kitchen, Marius places the black pouch on the counter and takes out a money envelope surrounded by an elastic band. He removes the elastic and gives the envelope to Laurent Mattel.

He makes me take out the money and collects the envelope. I then count out $15,000 in $100 bills. I even do little $1000 bundles on the counter. Then he picks up the money and puts it back in the envelope. He puts the elastic back around the envelope and gives it to me.

A $100 bill remains clearly visible on through the envelope window. Laurent Mattel gives him his Rolex and, after exchanging a few pleasantries, Marius leaves his home as peacefully as he arrived.

The Invoice

A little later, I decide to open the envelope and that's when I realize that it's a bundle of papers. I liquefied. I really felt a heat stroke, telling myself: I've been had.

Laurent Mattel had just become the most recent victim of a criminal magician who allegedly committed other similar thefts in the greater Montreal area. The Blainville police, to whom Laurent Mattel filed a complaint, are not commenting on the case.

But how did the thief manage to steal the $15,000 in front of him and leave with his watch? The bill asked illusionist Luc Langevin to demystify larceny (see video above).

Laurent was not negligent. Anyone would have been fooled, explained Luc Langevin.

This envelope exchange process was carried out according to the rules of the art. It's not a beginner magician who can do that. Obviously, I denounce the use of magic to create mischief and theft.

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Laurent Mattel with illusionist Luc Langevin.

After the police, Laurent Mattel turned to his insurer Promutuel to file a claim for $10,000 , i.e. the amount covered by their insurance policy in the event of theft of luxury items.

Ten days later, the claims adjuster called me and told me: good news, your claim is accepted! So there, everything is fine. But a few days later, Promutuel suddenly changed his mind.

I am informed that, ultimately, the litigation refuses to pay because that I handed over my watch voluntarily.

There, I am dismantled, demolished, disappointed. I felt like I had been robbed a second time by my own insurer. If I had known there were papers in the envelope, would I have handed over my watch? No!

A quote from Laurent Mattel

By email, Promutuel says it relies on case law on the subject at the insurance level , which states that generally, when an individual hands over property in exchange for a payment that turns out to be false, that person has been the victim of fraud, not theft.

Generally speaking, home insurance policies will cover theft in the traditional sense. That is, someone breaks into your home and takes your belongings. Fraud is not generally covered, explains insurance lawyer Jacqueline Bissonnette.

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Jacqueline Bissonnette, insurance lawyer

But in this case, there was no real payment. We are not talking about a fake check or a bank draft that turned out to be fake. This is why I find the case to be different. The person was robbed, clearly. Either the watch or the money.

Moreover, no claim for theft by magic seems to appear in the case law. It's quite unusual, a magic trick as sinister. I have never seen that in my practice! she admits.

Outraged by Promutuel's decision, Laurent Mattel then opened a small claims file, in addition to submitting a complaint to the Financial Markets Authority against the insurer.

Laurent Mattel's mishap is far from being an isolated case. Since the pandemic, Rolex thefts have exploded due to their scarcity on the market. In Europe and the United States, gangs make a living from it and commit robberies of disconcerting violence.

It gives me goosebumps, actually. Online, there are plenty of videos of people being attacked, either on motorbikes or in the street. Stores are getting completely smashed, says Cristian Fatu, owner of the Marchands du temps boutique in Montreal.

Canada is not immune to this phenomenon, as violent Rolex thefts have been reported in the media in Vancouver and Toronto. For the moment, in Montreal, these are rather non-violent thefts in most cases, but that does not take away the fact that you will be deprived of your property, specifies Cristian Fatu.

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Cristian Fatu, owner of the Marchands du temps store.

He points out that the community of luxury watch enthusiasts in Montreal is well aware that one or more thieving magicians seem to be operating in the region. In fact, The Bill has spoken to other people who say they were victims of the same scheme as recently as last week.

The Laval police had also launched a wanted notice (New window), in 2021, in connection with Rolex thefts by envelope substitution, but have since ended their investigation, without specifying why. Complaints to the Montreal police have also not been successful for the moment.

All of these watches can be found anywhere on the planet in a matter of days, in fact. These thieves do a lot of harm to people who are truly passionate.

He advises people who want to sell luxury items on Marketplace to do the transactions at a police station or through an intermediary, such as a jeweler.

If there is a theft, you must report it directly to Rolex and the local police. If you have a serial number and the watch is found, you may find it again, but the chances are slim.

Even if the watch remains untraceable, Laurent Mattel's story ends rather well.

In an amicable settlement, Promutuel finally agreed to pay him $10,000 , in addition to damages.

The insurer continues to assert that Laurent Mattel was the victim of fraud and that the loss of his watch is inadmissible, but said it paid him this amount because its claims adjuster had initially accepted his claim when it should not have done it.

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The Rolex Datejust 41 by Laurent Mattel

Contacted by Radio -Canada, Promutuel responds by email that the processing of each claim is done promptly for each of our insured members and complies with best practices.

For his part, Laurent Mattel still hopes to find his Rolex.

I tell myself that the universe takes care of everything. I try to be kind and hope that my little belief in the universe rewards me one day.

The magician thief is still running.

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