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Rise in jewelry scams: Coachella Valley residents warned of new crime trend

News Channel 3 is going in-depth on a new crime happening more often in the Coachella Valley after it happened again Monday night.

A woman is in custody accused of grand theft. A victim flagged down deputies saying his necklace had been stolen. 

He said a woman in her 30s asked him for directions, and to show her appreciation she placed a fake necklace around his neck and stole his. 

You can read the full story HERE.

It happened near Monterey Avenue and Dinah Shore Drive in the Sam's Club parking lot in Palm Desert.

An hour after the report deputies from Moreno valley’s station found the suspect’s vehicle in Moreno Valley. 

A 36-year-old Romanian National Woman was arrested and is now accused of grand theft. The F.B.I. had also flagged her as part of trans-national organized crime group. 

Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies say they’re seeing an increase in these types of thefts. 

Many unsuspecting victims have been targeted by suspects pretending to be strangers in distress or posing to be law enforcement. 

Sheriff’s deputies are warning Coachella Valley residents to remain vigilant when approached by strangers in parking lots.

"I know sometimes people really do need the help," said Rancho Mirage Resident, Jose Carranza. "Other times it could be a scam, you know, it's pretty important to be aware of that."

According to deputies scammers are targeting unsuspecting victims that are sporting flashy and expensive jewelry. 

"They're usually some of our most vulnerable in society which are senior citizens and the suspect is typically a female of Eastern European or Middle Eastern descent," added reporting deputy, Sgt. Daniel Milbrandt.

In most cases the suspect will approach the victim, either asking for directions or attempting to sell costume jewelery. 

"Regardless of which tactic she used, they usually come in contact with our victim physically, place a piece of jewelry on them and carefully remove the victim's jewelry without them even knowing oftentimes," added Sgt. Milbrandt.

He also said it’s important to take into account that people will notice your high end jewelry while you’re out in public. 

"If you see something that doesn't quite look right, it's probably not. And if that is the case, we'd encourage you to call the Sheriff's Department non-emergency number and we'll be happy to send a deputy out to check on that and make sure that it is okay," added Sgt. Milbrandt.

This jewelry theft isn’t the only scam threatening valley residents. 

"One of the things that we're seeing here at the Palm Desert Station is a lot of scams involving telling people that they need to go to local businesses and purchase gift cards," said Sgt. Milbrandt.

He added that suspects often time imitate law enforcement and threaten victims with imprisonment or fines. 

If you ever come across a call, email, text or pop-up that looks suspicious you can call the Sheriff’s Department and they can verify if law enforcement is trying to contact you. 

"If it really is someone that's purporting to be from the F.B.I. or from the Sheriff's Department, any type of law enforcement agency for that matter. There's nothing wrong with hanging up and verifying who that person is first," added Sgt. Milbrandt.

He also says the department saw a string of about a dozen similar jewelry thefts happening back in 2023.  

These crimes were committed throughout the Coachella Valley, other parts of Southern California, different states and even in other countries.  

They are believed to be committed by the same group.

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Bianca Ventura

Bianca Ventura joined KESQ News Channel 3 as a reporter in February 2022.


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