The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating a “cash for gold robbery scheme” involving three Maryland residents who forced a driver on the Capital Beltway (I-495) to give them money for jewelry that was likely fake.
The driver encountered the three individuals while driving home on Oct. 29 near the exit to Bethesda, where he saw them standing on the side of I-495, police said in a news release published today.
The victim stopped to provide aid. A woman said the stranded group needed money to continue their travels. She showed the victim a watch and gold jewelry. She requested cash in exchange for the items. The woman convinced the victim to drive to an ATM. Two men in a black SUV followed the victim and woman. The victim began driving and quickly realized this was likely a scam. The victim stopped in a parking lot and exited his car. One of the men from the other vehicle exited their car and told the victim to sit in the driver’s seat while he drove the victim to obtain money.
The man was driven to four locations around the Tysons area, where the trio forced the man “through intimidation” to withdraw money until his bank accounts were empty, according to the police.
Once the trio left him, the man called 911.
The FCPD says the perpetrators of the scam were identified as 39-year-old Magdalena Mazil, 36-year-old Hagi Voinescu, and 23-year-old Romeo Voinescu — all Baltimore residents — after an officer came across them in a gray Chevrolet Tahoe that “appeared to be disabled” on the Dulles Toll Road near Route 7 in Tysons on Nov. 3.
The officer searched the vehicle and found “large amounts of fake gold jewelry,” police said.
Mazil and Hagi Voinescu were arrested by Baltimore City detectives on Nov. 22, but Romeo Voinescu remains “outstanding,” according to police.
All three individuals are facing charges of abduction and four counts of robbery. The FCPD also obtained warrants for Hagi Voinescu for preventing a person from calling 911.
“Two additional warrants for preventing a telephone call were obtained for Magdalena. An additional warrant for driver failing to report an accident was issued for Romeo,” police said.
Police believe the trio may be connected to other crimes in the area.
“We’re asking anyone with information about the suspects or who may have encountered the suspects to contact us,” the FCPD said.
Detectives can be contacted at 703-691-2131. The department also accepts anonymous tips by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), text (type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411) and online through Crime Solvers.
The FCPD offers cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 to tipsters who provide information that leads to an arrest.
A 33-year-old man from McLean will go to prison for three years after participating in a scam involving technical support call centers, Department of Justice prosecutors announced on Friday (June 3).
Bruhaspaty Prasad “conspired with several other individuals” to defraud more than 1,300 people, most of them elderly, out of $1.6 million between April 2016 and September 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to the news release, Prasad collaborated with people in India on a scheme where he created several businesses that claimed to offer technical support:
The defendant’s co-conspirators contacted the victims through unsolicited telephone calls and pop-up notifications on their computers claiming, in part, that the victims needed assistance to remove malware from their computers. In other instances, the call center employees pretended to be associated with companies like Amazon and Microsoft and falsely led the victims to believe that there were issues with their online accounts. The victims were duped into signing contracts for technical support services that were never rendered. Once the victims agreed to pay for services, they were frequently contacted again for additional services and charged additional fees.
In addition to creating the fraudulent tech support companies, Prasad opened three businesses in Virginia that served as recipients for the scheme’s proceeds, “a significant portion” of which was sent to his co-conspirators in India.
“Prasad continued operating these businesses and obtaining victims’ funds even after personally receiving several complaints and negative online reviews,” the DOJ said. “Rather than closing the business entirely, Prasad continued to open businesses to allow the fraud scheme to proceed.”
According to the prosecutors’ office, Amazon provided “substantial assistance” to investigators. Court records show that the case was filed on March 7, and Prasad was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Photo via Petr Macháček/Unsplash