Fresno man sues ex-fiancée for $53k ring, SUV
Posted at 10:13 PM on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011
A spurned Fresno man says a diamond-studded engagement ring he gave to his former fiancée belongs to him, and he wants it back – especially since the ring is worth $52,550.
James Mekalian, 45, has sued Nichole Grazioli, 30, in Fresno County Superior Court for fraud and deceit in connection with the couple's April breakup.
Mekalian is asking the court to order Grazioli to return the 4-carat diamond ring and a 2006 Hummer to him. He also wants Grazioli to pay for nearly $1,000 in credit card bills that she charged after the breakup, as well as pay him damages for emotional distress.
"He wants to get on with his life, but how can he?" asked Fresno attorney Zepure "Zeppy" Attashian, who represents Mekalian. "He's suffering because he doesn't know if she really loved him or just loved the possessions he bought for her."
Efforts to reach Grazioli to comment were unsuccessful.
They were in a relationship for about four years, Attashian said.
He is trying to get the ring and the Hummer back under a law that says a gift made in contemplation of marriage can be recovered if the person who received the gift calls it off.
"The law is clear in California – she called it off, he gets it back," said Fresno family law attorney Michael Margosian, who is not associated with the case.
According to Margosian, the law also says if both sides mutually call off the engagement, the man still gets the ring back.
Because love can become a passing fling, Margosian said, "we have to deal with this issue more often than you think."
But there is a tiny word in the law that gives Grazioli an outside shot at keeping the ring, said Fresno divorce lawyer Brian Tatarian, who also is not associated with the case.
The law says the donor may recover the gift or part of its value as determined by the court or a jury. "It doesn't say shall," Tatarian said.
A judge or jury also will look into the circumstance surrounding the breakup, Tatarian said. For example, if a man promised to marry a woman, but didn't tell her they were moving out of the country, that could be grounds for her to keep the ring, he said.
Still, Tatarian said, if Grazioli broke off the engagement, the right thing to do would be to return the ring.
The lawsuit spells out, from Mekalian's point of view, how he promised himself to Grazioli and how the breakup happened:
Mekalian and Grazioli became engaged on Nov. 26, 2009. In anticipation of the marriage, Mekalian gave his bride-to-be a diamond ring that was appraised by Warner Co. Jewelers for $52,550.
The ring is made of 14-karat gold with a 4-carat diamond and 90 tiny diamonds. It weighs 19.52 grams, or nearly three-quarters of an ounce.
Relying on his fiancée's promise to marry, Mekalian also transferred title of his $25,000 Hummer into her name.
But as time passed, Grazioli was involved in other relationships, but never told Mekalian.
There is no response from Grazioli in court documents.
In his lawsuit, Mekalian accused his former fiancée of pretending to love him in order to induce him to buy her the ring and give her the Hummer.
Before the lawsuit was filed last week, Mekalian tried to get his ex-girlfriend to return the ring and Hummer, but she ignored his requests, Attashian said.
"My client doesn't want to say anything disparaging about her. He doesn't wish her ill-will. He wishes her happiness," Attashian said.
"But the ring was supposed to be a lifelong gift," Attashian said. "She broke off the engagement and now he's entitled to it. Anything less would amount to theft."