By Michelle Graff
New York--The Jewelers Security Alliance is warning store owners to be on the lookout for distraction thefts allegedly being perpetrated by members of the nomadic ethnic group Roma, also known as Gypsies.

The most recent distraction theft, described in JSA’s most recent weekly bulletin, happened Tuesday at a jewelry store in Gilroy, Calif.

According to the JSA, two women entered the store, one of which was carrying an infant.

They asked to see multiple gold chains and rings, and selected several that they said they wanted to purchase.

The sales associate brought the items to the register and one of the women asked to cut off the tags and wrap up the items in her own gift wrapping paper. As the sale continued, the suspects asked if the store accepted euros and, upon learning that it did not, they left, purportedly to go the bank to convert their money to dollars.

20161021 Roma-theftsThis security camera still shows the two women wanted in the distraction theft of a $12,000 ring from a jewelry store in Gilroy, Calif. earlier this week.
After the two suspects departed, it was discovered that a $12,000 ring was no longer in the wrapping paper and had been stolen.

The incident in Gilroy was one of a number of distraction thefts possibly carried out by a large gang of “Romanian Gypsies” that the JSA said is now operating in the United States and targeting jewelry stores.

Other similar distraction thefts happened in North Olmstead, Ohio on Oct. 16; Salem, N.H. on Oct. 12; Madison Heights, Mich. on Sept. 25; and Grand Junction, Colo. on Sept. 14.

Some shared characteristics of these jewelry store distraction thefts believed to have been perpetrated by the Roma include:
1. Entering stores in groups of two, three, four or more, often with babies or multiple children in strollers;
2. Requesting to see large numbers of items, often gold chains, which they have placed or spread out on the showcase;
3. Seeking to distract the sales associate with wrapping requests, requests to have the items placed in a box to hold for them until they return, or covering the items with a large purse while counting out a cash payment;
4. Finding a reason to leave the store abruptly, such as having only foreign money or not having enough cash, just as the items are being rung up; and
5. Conversing in what has been described as an “unknown European language.”

In the Gilroy distraction theft, the JSA said the suspects spoke Spanish, English and also conversed in the “unknown European language.”

One is described as being 5 foot 10 and 170 pounds with a stocky build and long, dark hair worn in a bun.

The second suspect, the one who was carrying the infant, was about 5 foot 6 and 145 to 150 pounds, also with a stocky build and long black hair.

These two women are believed to have attempted a distraction theft at a jewelry store in Bend, Ore. a month ago but the staff prevented it.

The JSA recommends that stores guard against distraction thefts by showing only one item at a time and keeping showcases locked, except when taking merchandise out or returning it to the showcase.

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