Armed men use lost-dog scam to rob victims

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego police sought Wednesday a man who used a lost-dog scam to distract a woman in front of her Sunset Cliffs-area home and a second man who then stole the jewelry she was wearing at gunpoint.

One of the men walked up to the 55-year-old victim as she was about to get out of her car in the 4300 block of Monaco Street near Amiford Drive shortly after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday and asked her if she had seen his lost dog, San Diego police Sgt. Michael Tansey said.

Locations were people were robbed by men in a "lost dog" scam.

Locations were people were robbed by men in a "lost dog" scam.

A gun-wielding man wearing a ski mask approached her as she was talking to the first suspect and pulled a necklace from her neck and took a ring off her finger, according to the sergeant. The two men then ran off.

Police described one suspect as black, in his 30s and around 5 feet 9 with a medium build. He was wearing dark clothing. The second was a stocky to heavy black man of 5 feet 10 to 6 feet tall wearing a black jacket, a black ski mask and dark clothing.

Tansey said police were investigating whether that robbery was related to two others Tuesday night in La Jolla and Ocean Beach.

Within minutes of the first robbery, a second that also included a lost-dog ploy occurred in the 1500 block of Ebers Street in nearby Ocean Beach.  Guillermo Alvarez of Ocean Beach spoke to FOX 5 and says he was the second victim.

A man asked the 36-year-old victim whether he had seen a lost pit bull just before a man in a ski mask and dark clothing pointed a gun at him and demanded his property. The victim offered up his cell phone and wallet after the suspect racked the slide of the gun, and the first suspect took his backpack, Tansey said.

“It was like oh, have you seen a pitbull? Well no I haven’t seen a pitbull, and just kinda trying to help out, the guy find his dog,” said Robbery Victim, Guillermo Alvarez. “And then the other guy came up with the ski mask and gun.”

Shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, a 60-year-old La Jolla man was robbed at gunpoint by three men in ski masks and dark clothing just after he pulled his car into his garage in the 1300 block of Virginia Way, according to Tansey.

The suspects took his watch, phone and briefcase then ran off.

“The first two were very likely committed by the same two suspects. Very similar, two black males approached the victim in each case on the street in front of their homes," said San Diego Police Lt. Todd Griffin.

“Suspect number one made some small talk about, have you seen my pitbull? The second suspect rushed up pointed a gun at the victims and demanded their personal belongings in each case,” Griffin said. “In the third one, it was described as three white males, who actually approached the victim as he was inside of his garage. The only connection is that they were basically at the same time in the beach area."

“Make sure they’re aware of their surroundings, make sure they’re not focused on one thing or another, making sure they’re not being followed especially now. But Yeah, it’s always good advice to keep an eye out for sure for strangers, and keep an eye out for people you don’t recognize in your neighborhood,” said Lt. Griffin.

Meanwhile, Guillermo Alvarez says he is much more situationally aware, and will put up motion detection lights on his home. He says anyone can become a victim, anywhere at anytime.

“It’s not really the loss of the stuff, it’s how you get the feeling that like if you’re out at night should you really be out? Maybe I should just go back inside. I think that’s the biggest loss is that,” said Robbery Victim, Guillermo Alvarez.

SDPD detectives were also investigating an attempted robbery in La Jolla where a man and his wife were inside their home on the 7900 block of Avenida Alamar when two people broke a window in their kitchen, SDPD Officer Roman said. The couple called police just before 8 a.m. to report that the suspects drove away without taking anything. The suspects in that case were hispanic, driving a blue, older model Honda with Baja plates.

Anyone with information on any of the robberies was urged to contact police at 619-531-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.