The feds say that a New Jersey man conned an Athol woman into converting her cash into “buckets” of gold for his benefit.
Gaurang Contractor, 38, an Indian man residing in Jersey City, was already arrested on state charges relating to his alleged scheme on Aug. 8. On Thursday, a federal prosecutor filed an indictment against him charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, for which Contractor is scheduled to appear in federal court in Worcester on Dec. 16.
According to the indictment, Contractor donned the identity of DEA Special Agent “Oscar White” and contacted an Athol woman in August to warn her that her bank accounts had been “compromised” by drug traffickers, as they were using her accounts to launder their ill-gotten money.
The prosecutor wrote that Contractor boosted his legitimacy in the eyes of his alleged victim by sending a picture of a fabricated credential through text message.
According to a Hadley Police Department Facebook post from Aug. 11, Contractor had allegedly told the victim that to “avoid prosecution,” she needed to convert $330,000 into gold bars.
He then purportedly laid out a three-step plan: First, the woman needed to consolidate her bank accounts into a single checking account. Second, the woman needed to head on over to a specific jewelry store in Hadley and use those funds to purchase the gold. Third, she should leave that gold in her unlocked vehicle so a “court officer” could retrieve it for “safekeeping.”
Contractor allegedly drove up to Hadley from New Jersey on Aug. 8, and as far as he could tell, his plan worked. He followed the car his victim had identified as hers through a photo as it left the jewelry store and winded its way over to a restaurant. From there, Contractor opened the door, and picked up two “buckets” of gold.
But the Hadley Police Department and the FBI had his number, according to a Hadley PD Facebook post from Aug. 11.
The woman had contacted the police to report that she had been scammed, so that department and other local PDs — Northampton and Hampshire/Franklin County Anti-Crime Task Force — teamed up with the FBI to scam the scammer.
According to the Facebook post, police quickly spotted their suspect’s black BMW as it followed the undercover car. Once he grabbed the gold, cops and agents moved in. He allegedly tempted to flee but they “boxed” his vehicle in and arrested him.