OCEAN CITY — Ocean City Police this week are urging visitors to be aware of an alleged scam carried out on as many as three occasions at one Boardwalk store and possibly others.
While it remains uncertain just how many naïve young people got caught up in the alleged scam at a Boardwalk clothing store during Senior Week, at least one Pennsylvania teen and possibly two others were allegedly victimized. Lorraine Lee of Royersford, Pa. this week said her daughter, who was in Ocean City celebrating Senior Week, went into the Jewelry Explosion store on the Boardwalk at 6th Street last weekend and was pricing a shirt she wanted with an iron-on decal.
The girl had priced the same shirt at different stores along the Boardwalk and asked the clerk at Jewelry Explosion how much it cost. When she was told it was $18, the girl hemmed and hawed and told the clerk she was going to think about it and come back another time. According to the victim’s account, the clerk flirted with her and asked her what her size was before returning a short time later with the prepared shirt.
The victim said she was confused when the clerk allegedly told her not to worry about it and that he would take care of it for her. When the confused teen left the store after getting assurances from the clerk it was okay, she was quickly approached by two store employees who told her they had watched her steal the shirt, and if she did not come up with $40 immediately, they were going to call the police and press charges.
The victim denied stealing the shirt, which was custom made with the decal she wanted, and became upset and began crying, according to Lee. The store employees allegedly did not back down and continued to mock the victim, taunting her with the phrase “come on vacation, leave on probation,” according to the victim’s account of the incident.
The store employees continued to demand $40 for the shirt and told the victim the theft had been captured on the store’s video surveillance system. Now distraught, the victim located her friends, who were scattered around the same area, and together they came up with $30 to pay for the shirt. The victim said she knew something was amiss, but was so upset and so concerned about her possible arrest, and what it could mean for her college scholarship, that she turned over the money.
It was not until she returned to the condominium where she was staying that she called her mother to report what had happened. Lee said she called the Ocean City Police and made arrangements for officers to meet with her daughter on the Boardwalk to confront the store employees about the incident.
According to Lee, OCPD officers did meet the victim as planned, but when they questioned the store clerks, the employees denied scamming the young girl. Lee said she later learned there had been at least three other similar complaints. However, short of catching the scammers in the act, there was little the police could do. Lee said this week she was frustrated and angry about the alleged scam, but had little recourse other than to warn others about what had allegedly happened to her daughter.
“It’s just ridiculous what they are doing to these young girls,” she said. “Being a mom and having my kid three-and-a-half hours away, I grilled her on everything to be aware of and stay away from, but I didn’t even consider something like this would happen.”
At least two calls to the Jewelry Explosion for its version of the story were not returned. Meanwhile, Ocean City Police acknowledged they had been made aware of the scam this week and urged any and all victims to come forward and file official reports.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if that type of thing has happened,” said OCPD spokeswoman Jessica Waters. “If this is happening, we need to know about it. We urge any victims who have fallen prey to a scam like this to call the police. If this happened like it sounds like it happened, we really need to know about it. It’s a crime, and if people are being extorted, we need to put a stop to it.”