PUYALLUP, Wash. — Puyallup police are warning of a diamond scheme targeting Latinos after a woman shopping at the South Hill Mall said a group of three forced her to hand over hundreds of dollars for a fake diamond.
A shopping trip to the South Hill Macy’s turned into a nightmare for Mirna Sanchez, who says the whole thing started when a man came up to her asking for directions in Spanish.
“He showed me an address on a piece of paper and asked me if I knew where that was located,” Sanchez said in Spanish while sharing her story at the Puyallup Police Department.
Sanchez said the man started to chat with her in Spanish and then tried to sell her a diamond for $1,000.
Sanchez said she refused and told the man she wasn’t interested and didn’t have that kind of money.
“After they started chatting me, I don’t remember what happened. Everything was a blur, but I remember another woman coming over to join the conversation. Now, I know it was his accomplice,” added Sanchez.
That’s when she says she got concerned because they told her she needed to come up with $500 and told her not do anything because she was being watched.
“When he came back he said I need $500 and I don’t know how you’re going to do it but you have to give it,” said Sanchez.
Puyallup police said the group was made up of two men and a woman who were all caught on surveillance video.
“They were relentless and threatening behavior and saying we need you to provide this money for us,” said Puyallup Police Capt. Scott Engle.
Sanchez said she feared for her life and was so scared she complied with their demands.
She said they went with her as she withdrew $500. They, in turn, left her with a fake diamond.
“Our detectives discovered this scheme ... had happened up and down the I-5 corridor,” added Engle.
Police believe the same group was caught on camera doing the same thing in Lacey last month.
“It appears they’re targeting Hispanic citizens as victims. All of these incidents, they’ve been targeting them to buy a diamond ring that is anything other than a diamond ring,” added Engle.
Police believe this same group is behind a similar scheme that happened in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2013 and believe similar cases have been reported as far back as 2008.
While Sanchez is out the $500, she says from now on she will avoid small talk with strangers.
“I want this to serve as an example to other people that they shouldn’t chat with others they don’t know in the stores,” said Sanchez.
Police say everyone out shopping should always be aware of who they interact with out in public.