Police Renew Warning About Jewelry Scam
Big Island police are renewing their warning about a recent scam involving counterfeit jewelry.
According to the Hawai‘i Police Department, police have seen an increase in reports of these types of scams during the past two months and have initiated multiple theft investigations. A Waimea jeweler also is reporting that several customers have been targeted by people selling fake jewelry.
“We have had a few customers, six so far, report they were approached by unknown persons in parking lots selling fake jewelry,” Sharon Gilbert of Lehua Jewelers in Waimea told Big Island Now on Monday, Aug. 1, in an email. “These jewelry items are well made and even carry a jeweler’s karat mark on them. The people selling these items often travel in rental cars and are looking to make fast cash, and use the excuse of losing their wallets and needing money or other sob stories.”
Gilbert said two different victims came to the Waimea jeweler Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30, attempting to verify the value of their “purchases.” She said one of the victims was approached in the parking lot of Minit Stop Waimea and the other in a parking area near a friend’s house.
“The crooks are not from here and are described as Mediterranean/Middle Eastern looking,” Gilbert said, adding that one of the victims described the person who approached him as Hispanic. “They are well-trained and seem to be instructed to approach Filipinos, even asking, ‘Are you Filipino?’ They have been known to target the older, male population and perhaps people who are not completely fluent in English.”
The police department said in a media release Monday that the suspects tend to approach people in public places and tell victims they are visitors and are selling rare or antique jewelry because they need money for gas or to purchase plane tickets back to their home country.
Last month, 33-year-old Vasile Calin of Washington state was charged with first-degree theft and criminal simulation after a 62-year-old Kailua-Kona resident reported he had been a victim of theft.
In that incident, which is similar to other reported thefts, the Kona man told police he was approached by two men who told him they were visitors and needed cash because their credit card did not work. The 62-year-old then paid Calin an undisclosed amount of money in exchange for jewelry, which he was told was real 18-karat gold. However, after getting it appraised, the man learned all the jewelry was fake.
Under state law, obtaining control over the property of another person by deception with intent to deprive the other of the property is considered theft. The penalties for theft depend on the monetary amount lost and, in some instances, can be considered felony offenses punishable by multiple years of incarceration and/or monetary fines.
First-degree theft is defined as theft in an amount that exceeds $20,000 and is classified as a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration and/or a fine up to $25,000. Second-degree theft is defined as theft in an amount that exceeds $750 and is classified as a Class C felony punishable by up to five years of incarceration and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Presenting an item that appears to have an antiquity, rarity, source or authorship that it does not in fact possess is also against the law and is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year of incarceration and/or a $1,000 fine.
As a reminder, the Hawai‘i Police Department urged the public to exercise caution whenever purchasing jewelry and recommends to have all jewelry inspected by a professional jeweler, goldsmith or gemologist prior to purchase.
Gilbert also urged people to be cautious if they are approached by people selling jewelry in public places. She said to not make purchases without proper documents, and anyone who has fallen victim to one of these schemes should contact the police and file a report.
“This will help prevent others, hopefully, from falling victim to this crime,” Gilbert said.
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to this jewelry scam, contact the police department’s nonemergency line at 808-935-3311. Police also advised that taking note of individual characteristics of the person selling the counterfeit jewelry along with their behavior patterns and vehicles can assist law enforcement in identifying, apprehending and prosecuting suspects.
Those who prefer to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 808-961-8300.