Seniors being targeted in cash-to-gold scams in Montgomery County

A warning from officials in Montgomery County: scammers are still targeting elderly victims, convincing them to convert cash into gold bars.

"The victims have been in Bethesda, Silver Spring, Leisure World, they're all over the county. Consistent pattern - seniors. Targeting seniors across the county," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

On Thursday, Ravinkle Mathon, 26, appeared in court, after being accused of trying to scam a man in his late 80s to early 90s out of $200,000.

"The suspect told the victim that he was a federal agent and that his identification had been stolen, and he needed to transfer his money into gold bars to protect it," said Shiera Goff with the Montgomery County Police Department.

The victim believed the call. He took out $200,000 and had it converted into gold bars through a legitimate website, ready to hand over to the suspect posing as a federal agent.

Thankfully, a family friend got word of what was happening and alerted the police.

Undercover officers set up a sting on Briggs Cheney Rd. in Silver Spring and arrested Mathon - a 26-year-old man claiming to be a German citizen, but with a history of travel in India.

"What we're seeing is that we do have suspects that are coming from other countries, and they are able to take these gold bars out of the country. They are able to go through TSA with these gold bars," Goff said.

This scam might sound shocking, but it isn't new. It's become such an issue nationwide that the FBI blasted out flyers to warn victims.

From May to December 2023, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center saw an uptick in cash-to-gold scams with losses of over $55 million.

And there have been more than a dozen reported victims in Montgomery County alone, including one in March - a 64-year-old woman living at Leisure World who lost $700,000.


'Gold bar scam': Authorities warn of new con costing elderly victims millions

Investigators in Montgomery County say criminals have conned elderly victims out of millions of dollars by convincing them to convert their cash into gold bars.

The suspect in that case, Wenhui Sun of California, was indicted on Thursday on four theft charges.

"I hope the alarm bells are going off and people that are in the senior community are listening to us," McCarthy said, adding that the key is education and avoiding isolation when it comes to financial crimes.

McCarthy said he has been asked by Leisure World to speak with senior citizens to warn them of the scams and risks. He will be doing a presentation there in two weeks.

The reason scammers have switched from asking for straight cash or gift cards is because banks and retailers will be alert if someone tries to take out a large sum of money, according to federal law enforcement officials.

That's not the case with these gold bullion websites.  To them, thousands of dollars in a wire transfer simply looks like a normal transaction.

Both suspects in these cash-to-gold scams are being held without bond.

They face up to 20 years in prison for each theft charge.