Ed Agopian, owner of Imperial Coin and Stamp Co. in Hamilton., was once again visited by a pair of suspected thieves that are alleged to be a part of a larger, organized group of Romani thieves.
“These guys were flashing money like crazy,” said Agopian, who was also visited by a different pair of alleged thieves in early February. “I called the police and they’re on their way to take the (surveillance) tape.”
Agopian said his most recent visit was by a middle-aged man and woman, the latter of which had “reddish” hair. He added the duo’s modus operandi was similar to other thefts taking place across the country, although they didn’t haggle for a better price this time.
“They were after gold coins, but they took six silver dollars and three loonies to camouflage—to throw my scent off,” he said, adding nothing was stolen before he told the pair to leave. “They’re up to no good.”
The suspects’ tactics are described as a “bait and switch,” in which they surveil the location before attending, at which time they show interest in purchasing gold coins and bullion.
“They take out cash – and flash several thousands in cash – and they ask to look at the coins before saying they need it packed up in a box because they need to ship it,” said Canadian Association of Numismatic Dealers President Michael Findlay. “They get the owner to pack the box and tape it up, but then they say they don’t have enough money to pay for it and offer to go to the bank – but then they’re gone.”
Kitchener, Ont.’s Colonial Acres was hit on Feb. 21 and lost four one-ounce GMLs. Co-owner Kirk Parsons said the alleged thieves tactics are “pretty consistent,” adding they will sometimes claim they are going to the airport or will even provide a down payment before getting the remaining money from the bank.
“You place the box on the shelf, unknowing the gold is missing and unlikely that you will open it up as you personally placed the items in the box and taped it up,” said Parsons. “They use distraction and sleight of hand to pull the heist off. From the video, I think they are professional magicians; it is impossible to see where the grab takes place.”
Findlay added these incidents usually occur at about 4:30 p.m., immediately prior to the closing time of the dealers as well as the banks.
“You put the box aside for the next day, or open it back up to put it back into stock, but the container is empty and they’ve palmed every item. It’s like they’re trained in sleight of hand, like magic.”
LIFTING VISA RESTRICTIONS
The federal government lifted Visa restrictions for Romanians as well as Bulgarians on Dec. 1, after which time citizens of both countries no longer required a visa to travel to Canada for short stays (normally for up to six months) for business, tourism or to visit family and friends; however, similar to other visa-exempt travellers, they require an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport. An eTA allows officials to screen travellers for potential inadmissibility before they board their flight to Canada. The decision to lift the visa requirements was a culmination of high-level engagement with Romania and Bulgaria on visa issues that began in 2014. It demonstrates “the importance the Government of Canada places on its relationship with both countries, and the EU more broadly,” according to a statement issued late last year.
“Canada values its strong ties with Romania, Bulgaria and the EU, and we are pleased to be able to extend visa-free travel to citizens of all EU member states,” said Ahmed Hussen, minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “Making it easier for Romanians and Bulgarians to come to Canada will encourage more travel and trade, which in turn, will create new business, trade and investment opportunities for Canadians and Europeans alike.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Border Services Agency are operating a task force at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, where a pair of thieves were arrested on March 3 and charged with theft.