NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – An investigation by North Ridgeville found that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.
Detectives say an investor who purchased what he thought was $20,000 worth of gold coins and bars from a dealer by the name of “Giovanni,” was actually buying scrap metal with a coating of gold. Investigators say “Giovanni,” whose real name is Philip Kovalcik III, reached out to investors on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, offering gold bars and coins at a discount.
Detective John Zingale told FOX 8, “I would say that’s a pretty big red flag. Gold is pretty standardized in what they call a spot price and it’s pretty well known among collectors that if you’re getting below that, there’s probably something bad about the situation.”
The first customer who purchased the bars and coins from “Giovanni the Gold Dealer” later sold some of the items to another investor, who it turns out was more experienced in buying and selling gold.
“He went home and started looking at it, and believed it didn’t look right, based on the dimensions, the weight, there was just something off about it, and he believed that he has actually been sold fake gold instead,” said Detective Zingale.
Police took the coins and bars to a jeweler, who used the latest equipment to determine that the man had in fact been sold counterfeit gold.
“The top layer of them is gold and as far as you could tell, it looked good but once you get underneath, it’s a little heavier, it can be lead, copper, nickel, brass, a whole number of different metals that are there just to make it feel the same weight that genuine gold is,” said Zingale.
Detectives asked one of the customers who had been ripped off to arrange another meeting with “Giovanni,” and when he tried to sell more counterfeit coins and bars, the 34-year-old Kovalcik was arrested on charges that include theft, trademark counterfeiting, criminal simulation and telecommunications fraud.
Investigators say Philip Kovalcik III and other perpetrators of the fraud are using the names of legitimate gold coin companies, with similar packaging, serial numbers and even QR codes.
Detectives say Kovalcik was trying to capitalize on the latest get-rich-quick scheme in the criminal underworld.
“There’s been an influx from what I’ve seen of counterfeit gold coming into the economy, so there’s a bit of a concern that we’re going to see more of this in the future, and one of the hopes is to stem the flow of this before it gets too bad. The best advice, stick to the known retailers, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Detective Zingale.