If you've ever thought that some of those fly-by-night cash-for-gold operations that sprout like weeds when the economy sucks are a scam, well, so does the U.S. Secret Service.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins' office sent word yesterday that a two-year joint investigation with the Secret Service wrapped up this week with the arrest of Bedros "Pete" Minassian outside a Victory Park hotel on Monday. Minassian was charged Thursday with two counts of felony theft for running Gold Stream, Inc.an Addison-based gold-buying business that was, according to DA's office, actually a Ponzi scheme that bilked customers of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And there's this, according to Watkins' press release: "Minassian is also accused of receiving individuals' jewelry for cleaning, resizing, etc., and secretly replacing high quality diamonds with cubic zirconia stones."
So how did Miniasson allegedly go about all this? I don't have a copy of the indictment, but this case from Oklahoma gives an idea. Seems Gold Stream would recruit "Independent Prospectors" -- because buying old jewelry from a strip mall in Oklahoma is just like panning for gold in 1849 California -- who would host gold parties and otherwise encourage people to hand over their precious metals.
The prospectors were supposedly trained by Gold Stream to value the gold, but they only provided an estimate. To actually get actual money, the seller would need to send their valuables to Gold Stream in a prepaid mailer. Only once Gold Stream performed the official valuation would it cut the check.
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And yes, there are apparently quite a few people willing to slip their family jewels into an envelope and mail them off to the strangers. According to the DA's release, law enforcement has so far accounted for more than $400,000 in losses but thinks that even more customers were bilked.
The number for Gold Stream has been disconnected, but if you're still intrigued by their offer of cash for gold, you can check out their website, where one of the frequently asked questions is apparently this:
I have fine jewelry like a Rolex watch to sell. Can I send this to GoldStream?
Yes. Yes you can. Or to Unfair Park. Whichever.