Alaska State Troopers say they have arrested two Romanian men in a roadside fake-gold scam spanning the state’s Railbelt communities over the past month, but warn that more suspects may remain at large.
Troopers announced the Fairbanks arrests of 21-year-olds Valentin Miclescu and Ion Boceanu in an online dispatch Monday. Miclescu is charged with using a fake Romanian ID to obtain airline tickets, while Boceanu is charged with second-degree theft after allegedly using a debit card that didn’t belong to him.
In a Sept. 1 post, troopers said the scam had prompted dozens of police reports across the state. The suspects were typically “well-dressed men or women who appear foreign in both their clothing and their speech,” troopers said. They claimed they were in dire straits and needed to sell gold at low cash prices.
“The suspects have approached citizens in parking lots and at residences,” troopers said. “They also appeared to have ‘broken down’ on the side of the road or run out of gas. When the suspects make contact, they will attempt to sell gold jewelry. It has been reported that the suspects will become verbally aggressive when a citizen refuses to buy the jewelry.”
The victims subsequently find that the jewelry they have bought is not real gold, troopers said.
According to Soldotna police, two vehicles driven by suspects in the scam — a red Ford F-150 pickup truck and a gold Chevrolet Equinox — were subsequently identified as rentals. Fairbanks police reported that the suspects appeared to be changing cars during their time in Alaska.
Troopers said they caught up with Miclescu and Boceanu on Saturday, after reports of the scam being conducted at a Fairbanks shopping center. A trooper observed them making three contacts with people, then pulled over the suspects’ vehicle and detained them for further questioning.
“During the investigation, troopers determined that these two Romanian males knowingly sold fake jewelry to Alaskans as part of a larger criminal conspiracy involving several people,” troopers said.
Troopers haven’t yet determined the full extent of losses suffered by victims of the scam, or how many suspects are involved, according to agency spokesman Austin McDaniel.
“At this point, we do believe that there are several teams or pairs of people that have been contacted (by victims) in Tok, Fairbanks, all along the Parks Highway corridor, down onto the Seward, Anchorage area,” McDaniel said.
As troopers investigate the case, McDaniel said, Alaskans’ first line of defense against being swindled is an alertness to possible scams.
“Always be wary of someone that’s presenting any kind of deal that seems too good to be true,” McDaniel said. “Whether it’s selling jewelry or calling you on the phone texting you, there are countless scammers out there looking to take advantage of Alaskans.”
Troopers ask that any victims of the scam who haven’t yet spoken with law enforcement call AST investigators at 907-451-5100.