Victims Lose $300,000 in Fake Gold Scam; Surveillance Photograph of Suspect Released

Suspect in fake gold scam

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Financial Crimes Section are investigating the report of a scam involving a suspect who sold the victims fake gold (it was actually copper).  Today, detectives are releasing a photograph of the suspect and asking for the public’s help in identifying him.

The investigation by MCP Financial Crimes Section detectives determined that in late August, one of the adult male victims, who owns a gold store outside of the United States, was contacted by a known acquaintance asking if he would be interested in purchasing a large quantity of gold from an individual known as “Mike” who resides in Gaithersburg.  The first victim then contacted a friend who was also interested in purchasing gold, and the two contacted the suspect and agreed to meet with him at a Gaithersburg hotel.

On August 20, the victims met with “Mike” at a Gaithersburg hotel.  The victims accompanied “Mike” to the third floor of a public storage unit located on Christopher Avenue where “Mike” showed the victims a box which he stated contained a large quantity of gold.  The suspect told the victims that they could remove a small sample of the gold to have it tested.  After the victims removed the sample, the suspect sealed the box and said that no one could tamper with the box.   That afternoon, the victims tested the sample gold at an independent facility who determined that the sample was gold.

On August 21, the victims met the suspect at the same storage facility. The victims, who observed the box in the storage unit, paid the suspect $300,000 for the gold.  The victims left the facility with the box.  The victims then had the contents of the box tested and were told that the material in the box was copper and not gold.   They then reported the scam to police.

Anyone with information regarding this suspect or this scam is asked to call the Financial Crimes Section at 240-773-6330. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest in this case.

RLG

Additional photo of suspect in fake gold scam

 

MCP Warns of Phone Scam Targeting Chinese Residents; 1.5 Million Dollars Lost

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Financial Crimes Section are warning residents of a phone scam targeting Chinese residents.  From May to August, seven Montgomery County residents have collectively wired approximately 1.5 million dollars to the scammers.

During this phone scam, the suspect(s) have called the potential victim (of Chinese descent) via phone.  The scammers use some, all, or a variation of the following: The scammer, speaking in a dialect of Chinese, states that he/she is from a Chinese or Hong Kong government organization such as a law enforcement agency located in China or Hong Kong, a government prosecutor, or the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C.  The scammers state that the receiver of the call has been involved in some wrong-doing and needs to wire money to China or Hong Kong in order to resolve the problem.  Often, the receiver then receives additional calls stating that it has been determined that the receiver has not committed crimes but is actually a victim of identity theft.  The receiver is instructed to wire money to clear his/her name. The receiver is often prompted to disclose personal information to include banking information.  The receiver is threatened that if he/she does not comply, he will face consequences to include deportation and detention in a Chinese prison.  The receiver is also told not to disclose the issue to anyone.

In these particular types of financial crimes, because the suspects are believed to be located outside of the United States, it is even more difficult for investigators to identify and prosecute the suspects and recoup the victims’ money.  Investigators are urging residents to share this phone scam information, particularly those residents in the Chinese community.  Anyone who believes he/she has been a victim of this scam and has not reported to the Police Department is asked to call detectives at 240-773-6330.

Note to Media: A Financial Crimes detective is available this afternoon to speak about this scam. Please call the Public Information Office at 240-773-5030 (press 4) to make arrangements for an interview.

RLI

MCP Reminds Residents: Beware of Grandparent Scam

Within the last two weeks, Financial Crimes detectives have received two cases where residents have fallen victim to what is commonly referred to as the “Grandparent Scam” and have given funds ($5,000 each) to a scammer.

During these two Montgomery County cases, the scammer posed as the victim’s grandchild and stated that he (the “grandchild”) was in jail in another state and needed money from the grandparent to secure a bond appearance.  One of the victims was instructed to wire money to a bank account.  The other victim received a call from the “grandchild” and then a second call from a scammer posing as the child’s attorney.  The “attorney” instructed the victim to go to Best Buy, purchase gift cards, and read the gift cards number to the “attorney” to satisfy payment.

The “Grandparent Scam” is a version of a fraud during which the suspect tells the victim that a family member or friend is in trouble or needs help. Scammers present a variety of emergency situations in these calls, to include a loved one who is in jail, has been in an accident, has been kidnapped, or has been physically hurt. The suspect often states that the event has occurred in another area and that the loved one is unable to talk. To assist in helping the family member or friend, the suspect says that the victim must send money via wire transfer or other fund transfer (ie: pre-paid cards, internet transaction, gift card purchase).

These types of phone scams are not unique to Montgomery County and have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and around the country.

Please read the following tips on what to do if you receive a telephone call that you believe is a scam:

  • Do not provide information over the phone.  Scammers often ask leading questions to retrieve information from you.  Often, you do not realize that you are giving them valuable information.  In both of these recent cases, the scammer began the telephone call with, “Hello Grandma” and, “Do you know who this is?”

 

  • Scammers create a sense of urgency; they state that they are in distress and need money immediately.  Slow down and ask the caller for detailed information and a contact number.  Tell the caller you will call them back after you verify information.

 

  • Then, attempt to verify the caller’s story by calling family and/or friends.  Scammers will often tell the loved one not to tell anyone because he/she is embarrassed about being in the situation.
  • Remember that scammers often use a technique called “spoofing.”  Spoofing provides a fictitious number to a Caller ID display.
  • Do not send money.  Beware of anyone asking you to wire money or buy gift cards and provide them with the cards’ information.
  • Most importantly, contact police immediately if you believe you are a victim of a telephone scam.

RLI

MCP Warns of Gold Scam Targeting Chinese Residents; One Resident Loses $20,000

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Financial Crimes Section are warning residents of a gold scam which has been reported as occurring in other parts of the country and is now occurring in this area.

Affinity fraud is a type of financial scheme that relies on building trust with victims based on shared affiliations and characteristics such as age, race, religion, occupation, etc.  In the gold scam, a type of affinity fraud, the suspect(s) work to build trust with victims who are of Chinese descent .

During this type of scam, the suspect(s), who are Chinese and who often work in a group, contact the potential victim (also of Chinese descent) via phone.  The incoming call to the victim often shows a phone number originating from China.  The scammer, speaking in a dialect of Chinese, states that he needs the victim’s help in some way, like finding a job for someone or needing some other type of support.  The scammer arranges to meet the victim to receive help and during the meeting the scammer, sometimes accompanied by a co-conspirator, presents the victim with what the scammers state is real gold (comprised of gold nuggets and Buddha figures) that he says he located while working construction.  The scammer also shows the victim a note written in Chinese that supposedly was found with the gold and explains how and why the gold was hidden.  The suspect tells the victim that he is undocumented, has no connections in this country and wants to sell the gold and use the money to return to China or help his family in China.  The scammer asks that the victim provide the scammer with cash and in return, he will give the victim all of the gold.  The scammer states that he will take less than what the gold is worth.  If the victim requests it, the scammer will provide him/her with a small gold “sample” to be tested.  The small piece of gold is often real.  At the end of the final transaction between the scammer and victim, the victim is left with worthless, fake gold and the scammer now has the victim’s cash.

The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) has received two reports of gold scams occurring in the County.  The first incident occurred on or about April 24.  The resident gave the suspects $20,000 in cash for gold which was tested and determined to be fake. Two suspects have a warrant for their arrest in this case for theft and conspiracy to commit theft: 49-year-old Xiaoping Yang (also known as Ziaoping Yang) and 51-year-old Yinhui Huang of undetermined addresses, both previously charged in Fairfax County for committing this same scam.

In the second incident reported to the MCPD, which occurred on June 11, the potential victim became suspicious of the suspects and before conducting any type of exchange she searched articles online and learned that this was a scam.  She then reported the incident to MCPD.  Detectives have obtained photographs of the two male suspects in this case.  The photographs are from a Gaithersburg restaurant where the two suspects and victim talked about the gold while eating lunch.

The Financial Crimes Section is asking that anyone who recognizes the two unknown suspects (photographs below) or anyone with information about the whereabouts of suspects Ziapong and Huang to call detectives at 240-773-6330.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the two unknown suspect(s). Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Anyone who believes he/she has been a victim of this scam is asked to call detectives at 240-773-6330.

Note to Media: A Financial Crimes detective is available this afternoon to speak about this scam. Please call the Public Information Office at 240-773-5030 (press 4) to make arrangements for an interview.

Two Suspects

 

Suspect One

Suspect Two

Sample of Fake Gold Given to Victim

Detectives Investigate Counterfeit “Movie Money” Scam

The Montgomery County Police Department is investigating reports of a scam that involves suspects becoming involved in private online transactions via social media apps and websites and using fake, prop money to pay for items.  The prop money, which can be purchased online, is used in movies and is usually marked, “For Motion Picture Use Only”.

During a prop money scam that occurred in Montgomery County on May 15, the 18-year-old female victim placed an advertisement to sell her iPhone 6 on the app “Letgo”.  The suspect, who identified himself as “Xavier on his “Letgo” profile and in text messages to the victim, agreed to purchase the victim’s cellular phone for $450.  The suspect told the victim that he only had five $100 bills and would give her the $500 if she would give him $50 in return.  The victim agreed to meet the suspect in the parking lot of the Milestone Shopping center located at 20900 Frederick Road in Germantown to sell him the phone.

During the transaction, the suspect gave the victim a bank envelope that appeared to contain five, $100 bills.  The victim then gave the suspect her iPhone 6 and $50 in cash.

Later that evening, the victim attempted to deposit the money into her bank.  The bank rejected the deposit.  Upon further inspection of the money, the victim discovered the words “For Motion Picture Use Only” written across the top of the five $100 bills.  The victim then reported the incident to the police department.

The suspect in this case is described as an approximately 15 to 16-year-old African American male who is tall and thin.  Anyone who has information about this suspect is asked to call the 5th District Investigative Section at 240-773-6237. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest in this case.

The Montgomery County Police Department has designated Exchange Zones for residents to complete online transactions.  These Exchange Zones are located at each of the six police district station’s lobbies and parking lots (with the exception of the Second District parking lot):  For more information about these Exchange Zones, please follow the link:

MCP Designates Exchange Zones for Online Transactions

When selling or purchasing items from an unknown person, the Montgomery County Police Department offers the following safety tips:

  • Always meet the buyer or seller at an exchange zone that is well populated, well lit, and preferably at a designated police exchange zone.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you’re going to meet someone and when possible, take a friend with you.
  • Inform the buyer/seller that you will not be alone.
  • Do not invite strangers into your home.
  • Never give out any personal or financial information.
  • When dealing with large sums of cash, don’t be afraid to tell the buyer that you will want to check the bills for authenticity.
  • It is OK to show a buyer that you have an item, but do not surrender it until you have checked the validity of the currency.
  • Look for the denomination specific security features. Each bill has a specific watermark and security thread.
  • Trust your instincts – if it sounds like a scam or too good to be true, it probably is.

RLG

Front of the counterfeit “Movie Money” currency

Rear of the counterfeit “Movie Money” currency