6 people arrested after series of alleged distraction-style jewelry thefts in Edmonton

Photos of the fake jewelry used by suspects in alleged distraction-style thefts in March 2019 in Edmonton.
Photos of the fake jewelry used by suspects in alleged distraction-style thefts in March 2019 in Edmonton. Courtesy: Edmonton Police Service

Six people believed to have been involved in several alleged distraction-style jewelry thefts in Edmonton over the past two months have been arrested east of Edmonton and in B.C.

Edmonton police said the thieves typically approached people along the side of the road or in parking lots, using various tactics to distract them.

In some cases, the thieves reportedly attempted to sell people fake gold jewelry or asked to see the real jewelry they were wearing. In other instances, thieves reportedly offered fake gold jewelry in exchange for money or gas, according to police.

Another scam involved allegedly dropping money on the ground and then approaching victims to tell them they dropped the cash, offering to help them pick it up. During each interaction, police said the thieves use sleight of hand to remove the victim’s real jewelry or remove their credit and debit cards from open wallets.

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READ MORE: Thieves using distraction techniques to steal jewelry off people in Edmonton

On Tuesday, Edmonton police, with the help of Vegreville and Sherwood Park RCMP, arrested and charged four men in Vegreville.

Catalin Alexandru, 28, is charged with two counts each of attempted fraud under $5,000 and fraud under $5,000.

Ionut Copilu, 21, is charged with attempted fraud under $5,000 and possessing stolen property under $5,000.

Guta Florin, 36, and Marin Luceafar, 51, are each charged with fraud under $5,000.

All four suspects are from Ontario and are known to police, who said more charges are pending and more arrests are also expected.

READ MORE: Video shows Edmonton man catching would-be thief in action, highlights growing problem

Two additional suspects wanted on Canada-wide warrants were also arrested by Vancouver police last month. The man and woman are believed to be linked to an alleged incident in March in which seniors were targeted.

In one instance, an 86-year-old woman was reportedly approached by the duo in west Edmonton.

The female suspect allegedly placed fake gold rings on the senior’s fingers and a fake gold necklace around her neck, in the process removing the victim’s wedding ring and a necklace that she was wearing.

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READ MORE: Seniors duped out of thousands of dollars by ‘distraction’ thieves

Three days later, a similar incident reportedly took place in the parking lot of a west end grocery store, where a 75-year-old man was blocked while attempting to get out of his vehicle.

A woman then reportedly placed fake gold jewelry on his hands and wrists and removed his gold watch before quickly leaving the parking lot with a man in a black SUV.

READ MORE: Thieves targeting seniors in downtown area

On March 22 in Vancouver, Constantine Miclescue, 31, and Elena Ghiocel, 41, were arrested and charged with robbery and theft over $5,000.

WATCH: A distraction-style theft caught on camera in Vancouver in summer 2018

Canada Line distraction thefts caught on camera
Canada Line distraction thefts caught on camera

In total, the six people are believed to have been involved in more than 20 alleged distraction-style thefts in Edmonton since March.

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“These thefts were undertaken by a well-organized crime group,” EPS West Division Criminal Investigations Section Staff Sgt. Colin Leathem said. “We are hopeful that these arrests have permanently disrupted their operation in the Edmonton area.”

Police are warning the public, in particular seniors, to be aware of their surroundings when in parking lots and to be extra vigilant if approached by strangers who are trying to give away or sell something.