FITCHBURG (WKOW) — Two people were arrested in Fitchburg Wednesday for running a scam that sold fake gold jewelry, according to the Fitchburg Police Department.
Around 3:00 p.m., a 911 caller reported that two people were trying to sell fake gold jewelry at a credit union. Responding officers saw the suspect vehicle leave the credit union and conducted a traffic stop.
Officers learned that the pair had approached the caller at a gas station earlier, where they told a story of their struggle to get money for travel to Florida. The suspects traded what they said was gold jewelry for food and gas purchased by the victim.
After that, the suspects offered to trade more jewelry for cash, and the victim drove to the credit union and called the police. Officers confirmed the jewelry was not gold and had no significant value.
Elisa Trandafir, 43, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and Inspector Szaz, 21, of Kirkwood, Washington, were booked into the Dane County Jail on tentative charges of theft by misrepresentation. A 14-year-old traveling with the suspects was released to a family member.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing.
The Fitchburg Police say that the circumstances of this case are consistent with scams that have been reported throughout the United States for many years. In these scenarios, victims are approached by scammers at gas stations or flagged down on the side of the road. The scammers often say that they are from a foreign country and either don’t have credit cards, recently lost them or had them stolen.
They typically say that they are traveling a long distance and need cash. In return for money, they provide fake gold jewelry that they say is worth hundreds of dollars.
Scammers in these situations are often driving a rental car and in many cases, are accompanied by children. Reports from other areas of the country indicate the scams are part of larger organized rings of criminals.
The Fitchburg Police say that avoiding scams begins with awareness and trusting your instincts. If a situation seems odd or “off”, the safest choice is always to say no and walk away. If you have safety or welfare concerns or believe a scam is involved, you should contact the police and report the situation.