SALEM, Ore. -- Salem Police are looking for a pair of con artists who tricked a well-meaning woman into believing she had real gold.
The con artists used a drawn-out and elaborate story to establish trust with Catalina Sandoval. She believed she was helping a man in need. But police say they were actually con artists, who ended up stealing $1,500 from her at a Salem restaurant.
It all started when Sandoval was shopping at a Walmart in Salem on Oct. 7 and a man approached her and asked her in Spanish if she could recommend at attorney for him. She said he told her his uncle was in a hit-and-run accident three months back, and the other driver had taken off, leaving him in terrible pain.
He said his uncle ended up having his leg amputated and was still in the hospital, but did not have any money to pay for the medical bills, and the family needed an attorney to take the case.
Sandoval said the man, who called himself “Jorge,” also asked another shopper, a well-dressed man who walked by, if he knew of an attorney. The well-dressed man stopped to help, and Jorge explained the situation further.
He said that a bag had flown out of the hit-and-run driver’s car during the crash, and police had held onto the bag for a month before finally giving it to the uncle’s family. At the bottom of the bag were three small felt bags, each with a small gold bar in them.
Sandoval said the well-dressed man offered to see if he could verify the value of one of the gold bars by taking it to a nearby shop that buys and sells gold. He left his wallet with $200 cash in it as security.
He returned and said the shop confirmed the value of the bar and gave him $15,000 cash for it. He showed Sandoval what appeared to be $15,000 in cash. He said the shop had run out of cash, and would not be able to buy another one of the gold bars until later that day or the next day.
After a long discussion and much pressure, Jorge sent Sandoval to the bank to get $1,500 cash. He wanted her to give him $1,500 as a security for one of the gold bars, so she could take the gold bar and sell it to the shop, and then meet with Jorge later to give him the rest of the money so he could use it to help his uncle.
Sandoval said she gave him the money, then later went to the shop with the gold bar. She said the shop employee told her they do not buy or sell gold, and Jorge never showed up for their meeting as promised.
Salem Police said the con men worked to establish trust with their victim, and then were able to persuade her to give them money because she thought she was helping someone who was in terrible pain and desperate need.