Thieves Steal $11K in Cash-For-Gold Switcheroo

Oct 11, 2011 7:25am

A pair of cunning thieves made off with thousands of dollars in cash after successfully pulling off a bait-and-switch scam at a Denver “cash-for-gold” store.

Two con men entered Myrna Munoz’s family jewelry store on Saturday and told her that because of a family emergency they needed to sell a large amount of gold jewelry fast.

“They weren’t even nervous. Like, they do this all the time,” Munoz said.

The two men entered Joyeria El Ruby in Denver with 445 grams of gold, which Munoz valued at over $11,000. The store’s surveillance footage shows one of the men asking Munoz a question to distract her while the other man quickly switches the real bag of gold, which Munoz has just assessed, with a bag of fakes that looked practically identical to the original.

Once the transaction was completed, one of the men stuffed the cash Munoz gave them for their gold into his pocket, and the two quietly left. The store was taken for the full $11,000 that she assessed the men’s gold to be worth.

Munoz’s mother realized what had happened just moments after the men left the store, when she noticed an unfamiliar piece of jewelry in the bag.

“My mom was like, ‘I don’t recognize this small chain here. Did we test it?’” she recalled.

The two began to test the jewelry and quickly realized that they’d been had. A simple test, in which a chemical is placed on gold, can reveal a fake if the tested area turns green. This was the case with every piece in the switched bag.

“This is a small family-owned business, hard-earned money that we have saved up,” said Munoz. “It makes me feel horrible.”

Many jewelry stores have been doing more business buying gold than they selling it, because melted down gold is worth more than $1,700 an ounce.  And as the price of gold has spiked, the crime rate surrounding gold, from smash and grab robberies to more elaborate heists, has been climbing steadily.

Last month a woman brandishing a handgun stole more than $10,000 worth of gold coins from a coin shop in Van Nuys, Calif.

Near Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this summer a group of four men entered a Gold 4 Cash store, leapt over the counter, overpowered the two clerks and made off with an undisclosed amount of gold.

Tony Demarco, owner of Western Loan & Jewelry in East Los Angeles, said that in the gold business every once in a while the owner will get burned.  He said that on Saturday Munoz made a rookie mistake.

“Twenty years ago, it would have been a thousand-dollar loss … the gold price is what’s pushing people — bad guys coming out of the woodwork,” DeMarco said.

As for Munoz’s misfortune, she’s certain that it’s a scam that these con men have run before, because she noticed that the real gold jewelry had been tested several times. She told ABC7 in Denver that the crooks had a smooth story — that they had taken it to a number of exchanges and just hadn’t found the right price yet.

The thieves were caught on her store’s surveillance camera, and the Denver police are currently investigating  the crime.

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