Victims lose thousands in fake-diamond deals

Targeting the Hispanic community with sad stories about needing to unload diamonds for quick cash, scammers have made off with thousands of dollars by selling worthless costume jewelry in parking lot deals, Medford police said.

An Eagle Point woman lost $7,000 Thursday when she agreed to buy a diamond — which turned out to be fake — from a man who approached her in the Rogue Valley Mall parking lot and said he had to sell two diamonds to help pay medical bills for his wife, who had been in a car crash, Medford police Sgt. Kevin Walruff said.

As the man talked with the Eagle Point woman, another woman walked by and he showed her the diamonds, too. That woman said she knew an employee at a jewelry store inside the mall and would take the gems in to get them appraised. She returned and said her friend confirmed that they were worth $14,000 and she wanted to buy one of them, Walruff said.

The Eagle Point woman made arrangements to buy the other. She later discovered it was fake and reported the scheme to police.

She described the man and woman as Hispanic and in their 40s or 50s. The woman had waist-length black hair.

Thursday's victim was the third this month, Walruff said. A young woman lost $500 on May 15 after buying a nearly worthless necklace near Hawthorne Park from a 30-something woman who said she needed money to cover burial expenses for her husband. On Tuesday in the Winco parking lot, another woman lost $2,000 buying fake diamonds from a man in his 20s who said he needed money for family medical bills.

"They are losing a large amount of money to people who approach them on the street," Walruff said.

He said detectives suspect that the scammers could be a team or family. They likely have approached others locally who have refused their deal.

They might also be working along Interstate 5 as similar cases have been reported in Salem recently and investigators are checking with other police agencies for additional reports.

Police ask anyone with information about such schemes to call investigators at 770-4784.

— Anita Burke

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