‘Diamond’ scam artists targeting Latina women

Posted at 5:19 PM, Mar 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-07 21:05:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY - Police from at least three agencies are now looking for two women they say use fake diamonds for collateral in exchange for money.

Police say the suspects speak Spanish and are targeting other Latina women, telling them stories about needing money for medical emergencies. The suspects have allegedly conned at least three women out of nearly $20,000.

Marina Gomez says she's the latest person to fall victim to the scam. She was shopping at the Taylorsville Walmart when two women struck up a conversation.

She says one woman told her she was in desperate need of $5,000 because her husband was in the hospital. The woman had what she claimed was an expensive diamond, saying Marina could hold it as collateral until the money was repaid.

Marina says the second woman confirmed the gem was genuine and that she was buying one herself. That women then went to a bank with Marina, who withdrew the cash.

"And when I give them the money my heart is just, this is no good," Marina said.

The diamond turned out to be fake and the phone number given to Marina by the suspects was also bogus, Marina said.

Marina is at least the third Latina woman to be caught by the scam in three weeks.

"People in the Latino community are very helpful, they try to help one another," she said.

While police from Orem to West Valley City investigate the series of crimes, Tony Yapias is doing what he can to warn the Latino community. He's been telling listeners about the scam on his weekly Spanish language radio show.

He put a link to the FOX 13 News story about the first victim in Utah County and got an immediate response from one woman.

"And says, 'I talked to this lady and she talked to me and stopped me and wanted to know what I was doing,'" Yapias said.

That woman didn't take the diamonds in exchange for cash, but didn't know they were suspected scam artists. Yapias is now hoping people will pay closer attention.

"And I call on the Latino community to turn these women in, somebody in the community knows who they are," he said.

The suspects have now struck in Orem, West Valley City and Taylorsville.

Anyone with information is asked to contact local police or 385-468-9447.