Man arrested in suspected $200K gold bullion scam in Cherokee

Victim previously transferred more than $150K in gold, cash, gift cards
Cherokee County deputies take 27-year-old Parth Patel, of Ontario, Canada, into custody on charges related to a suspected $200,000 scam.

Credit: Cherokee County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Cherokee County Sheriff's Office

Cherokee County deputies take 27-year-old Parth Patel, of Ontario, Canada, into custody on charges related to a suspected $200,000 scam.

The suspected scam began when an 80-year-old Cherokee County woman got a call from someone claiming to be an Amazon employee who asked about a recent purchase, law enforcement officials said.

When the victim said she hadn’t made such a purchase, the caller expressed concern that her identity had been stolen and offered to help make sure her finances were secure.

According to the Cherokee sheriff’s office, the woman ultimately sent the callers more than $150,000 in separate, steadily increasing transactions over two weeks. When she finally spoke to a family member about the situation, her family contacted authorities. Investigators then set up a sting operation at a meeting where the woman was expected to hand over 80 ounces of gold worth about $200,000.

Parth Patel, 27, of Ontario, Canada, was arrested April 26 on felony conspiracy charges after he was surrounded by deputies in a parking lot in Woodstock, the sheriff’s office said. Patel was released from the Cherokee jail Monday on bond of just under $17,000.

The sheriff’s office said they worked with the FBI and Homeland Security to investigate the suspected scam. Investigators said they believe Patel is a lower-level “associate” of a larger criminal organization based in India and the United Kingdom. Patel was not the same person who met with the victim for an earlier transaction that also involved gold bullion, authorities said.

While not all details were made available, the sheriff’s office shared an account of the suspected scam: When the victim was first contacted, she was eventually transferred to a person who identified themselves as an employee of the U.S. Treasury Department. That person convinced the woman to purchase $1,500 in gift cards and provide the card details over the phone. Once the value of the gift cards had been transferred, the caller told the woman she would need to wire $50,000 to a bank in New York.

The woman followed the suspect’s instructions and was later advised to buy 40 ounces of gold from a local distributor, according to the sheriff’s office. She bought the gold, worth about $100,000, and handed it over to a person she believed was a Treasury employee at a local business, the sheriff’s office said.

After the gold transaction, the woman finally mentioned the scheme to a family member.

“Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies will never call and ask for cash, gold or gift cards,” a sheriff’s office spokesman said. “These scammers are very convincing. The scam above lasted for over two weeks and required multiple phone calls.”

The spokesman added that anyone suspicious they might be getting scammed can call 911.

Patel’s arrest came just days before the FBI released its 2023 Elder Fraud Report, which showed significant increases in fraud reports and losses last year. According to the annual report, Americans over 60 lost more than $3.4 billion to fraud in 2023. Tech support scams were by far the most common, while investment scams were the most costly.

An infographic released by the FBI shows the most costly elder fraud scams of 2023.

Credit: FBI

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Credit: FBI

Last year, the FBI said Georgia was one of the 10 worst states for elder fraud. Older Georgians lost more on average in fraud cases than victims in other states, totaling about $79 million across more than 2,000 cases in 2022.