BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Three men from California are facing felony charges after investigators say they tried to pass off fake gold as the real thing. Police said the fake gold was so convincing that many pawn shops, including one in Boardman, were fooled.
The trio had gotten away with their scam at TeleGold Jewelry in Boardman. They had been traveling around the state selling their fake wares, according to police
Their information was put into a special alert system for pawn shops and police. That’s how Jim Eckman, president of Ace Diamond and Jewelry Brokers in Boardman, knew who to look for.
One of the men came into his shop, and he called police.
Otto Alvarez, 29, was charged with complicity and possessing criminal tools; Jorge Avalos, 20, was charged with theft and criminal stimulation; and Axel Munoz, 32, was charged with complicity, obstructing official business and possessing criminal tools.
Eckman said due to the quality of the counterfeit jewelry that Avalos attempted to sell him, it was tough to spot it as counterfeit. The gold jewelry’s value was determined to be $20, although, if it were real, it would be around $450 to $800.
“The thickness of the outer gold is really, really thick, and that will fool an x-ray metal analysis. That will fool an acid streak test, so you have to be extremely careful, and that’s why they were having some success in their travels,” Eckman said.
Acid tests reveal if jewelry is pure gold or just plated. Brokers rub a bit of the metal away on a stone. If testing acid eats away the mark, it’s fake.
Eckman said a test determined that the gold was fake, but the alert system for pawnbrokers was also a valuable tool in spotting the men.
“If you can imagine a poor detective who has got to investigate a burglary, how’s he going to check 50 places that buy over the counter? This is just beautiful,” he said. “He can send out one email, ‘I’m looking for this item or this person,’ and it goes out to all these places.”
The suspects were due in court in Boardman on Thursday. Police say they found materials to make more fake necklaces in the car that Munoz was driving.