NJ man arrested for allegedly conning woman into buying $330K in gold bars at Hadley jeweler

  • Gold bars are stacked in a vault at the United States Mint, in West Point, N.Y. AP

Staff Writer
Monday, August 22, 2022

HADLEY — A joint investigation by the FBI and Hadley police this week led to the arrest of a New Jersey man who allegedly convinced an Athol woman to buy $330,000 of gold bars from a local jewelry store in Hadley.

Gaurang Contractor, 38, pleaded not guilty in Eastern Hampshire District Court on Tuesday on charges of attempted larceny from a person over 60 and breaking and entering into a motor vehicle with intent to commit a felony, according to a post on the Hadley Police Department’s Facebook page. Contractor was arrested Monday at a Hadley restaurant on Route 9.

Hadley police started an investigation after an Athol resident reported being told over the phone that she was being investigated as part of an identity fraud ring. The victim was informed by the caller, who claimed to be a government official, that in order to clear their name, she needed to buy $330,000 of gold bars from Hannoush Jewelers in Hadley and provide it to a court officer, according to police. The alleged victim bought the gold, then contacted police.

After consulting with the FBI, Hadley police formed a joint operation involving those two organizations plus the Northampton Police Department and the Hampshire/Franklin County Anti-Crime Task Force.

Police said the operation involved leading the suspects to believe the gold would be left in a car at the Texas Roadhouse on Route 9.

Police alleged that Contractor entered the undercover vehicle on Monday after following it in a black BMW, and that he removed two containers with fake gold in them. Once he tried to leave the parking lot, Contractor was arrested by local law enforcement and federal agents, although police say that he tried to evade capture first.

“He backed away and sought an escape route within the parking lot,” Hadley Police Lt. Mitch Kuc said, but he said there were too many agents and that the suspect surrendered.

Hannoush Jewelers confirmed that they returned the victim’s money after the gold was returned.

Contractor’s case has been continued to Aug. 31, and police said that federal charges may also be forthcoming.

Kuc said that the department gets calls on a daily basis on scams and attempted scams. In this case, the incident originated when the victim responded to an unsolicited fake Amazon order call, he said.

Kuc said that a tactic of scammers, which was used in this case, is to keep people on the phone and threaten that police will come to their door if they hang up.

“This is a very effective tactic that they use,” he said, and he said if someone is behaving in this way it’s a scam.

Kuc advises people receiving these calls to hang up and contact local police.

He also suggested that area business owners be cognizant of people doing unusually large transactions, as they may be the victim of a scam.

“Slip that customer a note and ask ‘Is there’s something going on?’” Kuc said.

Kuc urged those who think they have been the victim of fraud or attempted fraud to call their local police department “without hesitation.”