Former owner of Granby Ranch smuggled gems, is hiding assets in shell companies, lawsuit claims

Marise Cipriani’s sister claims the former developer has offered to repay a $19 million loan with “several million dollars worth of uncut gems” while her son faces diamond smuggling charges in Florida.

When Marise Cipriani first bought the Granby Ranch property in 1995 there was no one living on the property, now there's a little over 600 homeowners and approvals for more than 4,349 additional homes.
Nina Riggio,/Special to The Colorado Sun

In the late 1990s, Marise Cipriani was a successful businesswoman, captaining a thriving airline  and meatpacking plant built by her rags-to-riches grandfather in Brazil and planning a four-season resort with thousands of homes at her ski-and-golf property in Grand County.

Now, according to a lawsuit filed by her sister, 66-year-old Cipriani is on the run from creditors, hiding assets in offshore shell companies and smuggling precious stones.

The lawsuit filed this month in Denver District Court accuses Cipriani, who spent 24 years developing Granby Ranch before surrendering it to creditors in 2019, of using “a complicated, international network” to hide assets as her empire spectacularly collapsed. The schemes — outlined in the lawsuit filed by her sister, Valeria Fontana, who lent Cipriani $19 million in 2013 — include a “mind-boggling … web of companies” created in the names of her cook, housekeeper and “spiritual guru,” and illegally smuggled stashes of uncut gems and diamonds.

Cipriani’s son, Guilherme Cipriani, was arrested by federal agents in April at Miami International Airport for smuggling 14 loose cut diamonds and 53 rough uncut diamonds through customs. The arrest followed an investigation by U.S. and Brazilian authorities and included charges of smuggling goods and lying to federal customs officials. In early Guilherme Cipriani in August pleaded guilty to the smuggling charge and faced up to 20 years in prison. In late October, court filings in the U.S. Southern District Court in Florida show research into the smuggling charges revealed “there is no tax or duty owed on loose diamonds” and Cipriani asked the court to vacate the guilty plea and refer him to a diversion program that would not require prison time.

The Fontana lawsuit, which includes claims against eight mining companies controlled by the Ciprianis in Brazil and Hong Kong, says the arrest of Guilherme calls “into question the legality and business purposes of Marise Cipriani’s many mining related entities.” The lawsuit seeks “to pierce the corporate veil as to this complex network” and expose “fraudulent transfer, conspiracy and … violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.”

To read more from Jason Blevins visit The Colorado Sun.

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