Edmonton Det. Emeric Derzcen

Det. Emeric Derczen posed with fake gold necklace being sold on Edmonton streets last year. (CBC)

A band of travelling thieves that uses distractions and fake gold jewellery to steal money and the victims' jewellery are back in Edmonton.

Police are investigating a rise in the distraction-style thefts, frauds and robberies, with 17 incidents reported already this year, 12 in March alone. 

Police believe the group is responsible for 107 similar crimes in 2013.

So far in 2014, victims have lost an estimated $13,000 in cash and property, and in 2013 an estimated $125,000.

“These thieves are very good at what they do," said acting Det. Emeric Derczeni in a news release. "They target as many victims as possible in a short period of time before moving on."

The thieves usually target seniors or recent immigrants who speak little English, offering them jewellery as a gift or for sale at a substantially-reduced price, police said.

The victims’ jewellery is often switched or removed without them knowing.

Victims have also purchased “gold” jewellery only to find out later it is nothing more than costume jewellery. 

Police are also concerned with the forceful nature of the thieves simply grabbing what they want and sometimes using violence to get it.

City police offered four examples of recent crimes:

  • On Mar. 3, a man, 45, was walking to his vehicle outside of a north Edmonton strip mall holding an envelope of money withdrawn from a bank. Two men and a woman approached in a grey four-door car. The driver asked the man if he wanted to buy some “gold,” and when the man declined, the male driver grabbed the envelope and sped off. The man tried to open the driver’s door and was dragged for a short distance before falling.

  • On Mar. 4, a woman, 74, was shovelling snow in southeast Edmonton when a silver four-door car drove up. A woman asked for directions to a hospital while a second woman approached the woman. She placed a fake-gold necklace around the victim’s neck while removing her real gold necklace.

  • On Mar. 6, a man, 67, was walking to his car in southwest Edmonton when he was called over by a woman in a dark-coloured van. She asked if he wanted to buy some “gold” jewellery. The man declined, but the female offered him the jewellery as a gift.  The man approached the van, leaned inside to try on the jewellery when the woman placed a fake-gold necklace around his neck while removing his real gold necklace.
  • On Mar. 10, a man, 78, was in the parking lot of a southeast Edmonton casino when a black SUV drove up. A woman offered him a “gold” ring to bring him good luck, placing it in his hand. The man said he did not want the ring, but the woman placed a “gold” chain in his hand saying it would bring him double luck. The male driver offered the man another ring and when he placed it in the man’s hand, he pulled the man closer to the SUV. The woman grabbed the man’s gold necklace, but the man was able to pull away.

The suspects are described as having dark complexions and dark hair, with heavy accents that may be Eastern European or Middle Eastern.

The suspects are currently believed to be in the Edmonton area, however, they may be travelling throughout Alberta.