JUNE 23–In an audacious and heartbreaking scheme, a pair of elderly Floridians were swindled out of $400,000 in gold bars by a phone fraudster who claimed that the victims were facing arrest due to illegal activity in their respective Amazon accounts, according to court records.

Last month, a 78-year-old Jensen Beach resident called police to report that he had been bilked out of $154,000 after receiving a call from a man claiming to be an Amazon representative.

After being told about purported fraud on his account, the victim was transferred to a “Brian Alba,” who said he was “an agent with the US Government and that based on the activity there were several warrants out for his arrest.”

“Alba” said he could keep the man out of jail, but the victim would first have to obtain a $154,000 cashier’s check and then use the funds to purchase two gold bars (each of which weighed a kilo and cost in excess of $75,000.) “Alba” assured the septuagenarian that he would “send him a cashier’s check after he received the gold, for the amount he paid for it.”

[Scams like this frequently target the elderly, who sometimes can be addled, fearful, and easy to manipulate, especially if they do not have a relative or friend with whom to discuss strange telephone contacts.]

After obtaining the gold, the victim put the bars in an old iPhone box and wrapped the package to make it look like a gift. With “Alba” on the phone directing him, the man drove on May 24 to a drop-off location and placed the package in the back seat of a sedan when the driver rolled down the window.    

The elderly man only called police when he continued to get calls from “Alba” seeking more gold. The victim, cops say, “began to feel like the entire thing was a scam.”

At the direction of investigators, the man continued to take calls from “Alba,” who told the retiree to “go to the bank to move money from his investment account to his checking account” so that he could get a cashier’s check to buy more gold.

The victim Thursday arranged to deliver an extra $200,000 to “Alba”’s driver. Carrying a box filled with fishing weights, not gold, the man was told by “Alba” to drive to a nearby shopping mall. There, the victim was directed to a Toyota whose driver was a “male of Indian descent” who was “on the phone during the transaction as well.”

As a police surveillance team watched, the victim, as instructed, put the package in the Toyota, which drove away with the “gold.”

Cops subsequently pulled the car over and identified the driver as Tejaskumar Patel, 21, who carried an Illinois driver’s license and said he lived with his family in Hanover Park, a Chicago suburb. Patel claimed he came to the U.S. in October 2023 and has a green card.

After floating a series of false explanations, Patel was arrested for grand theft, a felony, and transported to police headquarters. While in custody, Patel confessed to his role in the fraud scheme, saying he has been paid by “someone he knows as ‘Rocky’” to pick up packages and then deliver them to drop-off points. He claimed to have worked since May with “Rocky,” who pays for his travel, rental cars, and hotel stays.

Patel, who claimed he had only done six jobs for “Rocky,” gave cops access to his WhatsApp account, which showed he had been sent “all over the country” by “Rocky.” His phone showed that, earlier Thursday, he was directed to do a gold “pickup” from a 77-year-old Florida woman.

Evidence in Patel’s phone showed that he was the driver who picked up the two gold bars from the Jensen Beach victim in late-May.

Patel “pointed out that all the people he picked up gold from were Americans, and that everyone he delivered the gold to, were from India.” Patel claimed he thought this was “weird,” but whenever he asked about it, “Rocky” told him to “just focus on the job.” Patel claimed he did not know the gold “was obtained through fraudulent means.”

A police examination of Patel’s phone revealed that he was allegedly involved in scamming another Floridian out of “cash and a large amount of gold ($242,000 worth).” That swindle, in neighboring St. Lucie County, is expected to result in additional charges against Patel.

Facing three felony counts, Patel, locked up in the Martin County jail, made his initial appearance Friday in Circuit Court.

Police investigations into the gold bar scheme are continuing. (3 pages)