Charges have been laid against two alleged jewelry-swapping thieves who police believe might be part of a ring operating in the Lower Mainland.
The pair were arrested Feb. 7 in Abbotsford after a tip from an alert citizen. The person had seen two women tussling on a sidewalk in the area of Maclure Road and Trethewey Street, and then saw one of them get into a vehicle and drive away.
The witness obtained the vehicle’s licence plate and reported it to police, who stopped the car shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile, other officers went to the scene of the incident and discovered that a 100-year-old woman had been the victim of a jewelry theft.
The victim reported that she had been walking when she was approached by a woman who held up an apparent gold necklace and asked the senior if she would like to try it on in exchange for the necklace she was wearing.
The victim declined, but the suspect became more forceful, grabbed the necklace off the woman’s neck and got into a silver Dodge vehicle waiting nearby.
MacDonald said that when police pulled over the car – which had been rented – they found several pieces of fake jewelry in the vehicle as well as the victim’s necklace.
Two people were arrested on the scene and later charged with robbery: Suraj-Ion Ghiocel, 35, and Nadia Constantin, 36. They have each been released on $2,500 bail and are next slated to appear in Abbotsford provincial court on March 10.
A 13-year-old child was also in the vehicle.
MacDonald said it is believed the trio originate from Toronto.
Reports of similar jewelry-swapping thefts have occurred throughout the Lower Mainland in the last year.
The scam was first reported in Abbotsford last April, when two incidents were reported. One involved a group of people causing a dispute in a jewelry store and distracting an employee while a woman in the group stole a ring.
The second involved occupants of a vehicle approaching pedestrians, trying to convince them to buy jewelry they were selling.
The following month, the travelling bandits struck again. They pulled up in cars and approached pedestrians, asking them if they wanted to try on some jewelry.
In two cases, they were able to exchange their fake jewelry for real jewelry that the elderly victims were wearing.
Around the same time, the Vancouver Police Department reported they had investigated 10 incidents in which a group of jewelry thieves was targeting elderly victims.