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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Woman Charged in Rock Fraud

City PoliceA man holding the 25-kilogram rock Pashkova was selling for $20 million.
An elderly woman has been arrested and charged with fraud after she tried to sell a large corundum stone for $20 million, passing it off as a giant hunk of ruby crystal, police said Tuesday.

City police officers on Saturday arrested Valentina Pashkova, 68, in a bank on Tverskaya Ulitsa after she tried to sell the stone to an undercover police officer, city police spokeswoman Yulia Ivanova said.

Pashkova, who lives on Palekhskaya Ulitsa in southeast Moscow, had been looking for several years for a buyer for the 25-kilogram stone, which she claimed was actually worth almost $300 million, Ivanova said.

According to police, Pashkovo placed the stone in a safety deposit box in the bank two years ago and began looking for a buyer. To this end, she employed an acquaintance --Stanislav Soleiko, 56 -- as a middleman, promising him $100,000 if he could arrange a deal to sell it for $20 million, police said.

Several weeks ago police were tipped off about the rock and set up a sting operation, said Tatyana Korolyova, another city police spokeswoman. Pashkova showed the undercover cop posing as a buyer a falsified certificate stating the stone was ruby crystal worth $270 million, Korolyova said.

Pashkova was arrested after removing the stone from the safety deposit box, Korolyova said. Both Pashkovo and Soleiko have been charged with fraud and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Pashkova claims the stone's previous owner deceived her into believing the inflated value of the stone, which is currently being examined by gemologists to determine its true value, Ivanova said.

Pashkova claims she purchased the stone five years for $5 million, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported Tuesday.

The ruby, which belongs to the corundum group of minerals, is one of earth's rarest and most valuable gemstones.

Experts on investment in precious gems commonly warn potential investors of scams involving the sale of gems for below-market prices.