SAN DIEGO — San Diego police asked for the public’s help in catching Spanish-speaking con artists who swindle people out of money by offering them a cut of supposed lottery winnings, and Escondido police said a similar scam has fleeced residents in that city.
The couple operating in San Diego claim to be from Costa Rica. They have taken about $52,000 from at least four victims in recent months, police said. Both were described a light-skinned Hispanics; the man, is his 30s or 40s, is thin, and the woman, believed to be in her mid 30s, is heavyset.
The pair tell strangers they won a lottery but cannot collect the winnings because they are illegally in the United States, then persuades the victim to help pay “fees” to get part of prize. In one case, the thieves drove a victim to her home to get cash, then stole more money and jewelry while there, police said.
Anyone with more information as to the names or whereabouts of the suspects were asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477 or to send tips via email to sdcrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to a $1,000.
Escondido investigators said crooks in their city have been targeting Spanish speakers along East Valley Parkway, east of Ash Street, with a very similar swindle, Lt. Eric Skaja said. One of the con artiss, generally a woman, approaches a victim and pretends to need assistance in cashing a winning lottery ticket. Soon an accomplice, usually male, approaches and offers to help, Skaja said.
The second swindler then telephones a third who poses as lottery official. That person backs up the story of the other two but claims that “taxes” and “fees” must be paid for the lottery money to be released.
The crooks convince the victim to withdraw a sizable amount of money from the bank and give it to them so they can make the supposed payments, with the promise that they will repay four to five times the amount of the investment.
After the victim gives the thieves money, they disappear, the lieutenant said.
Anyone approached by people making such claims was urged to immediately call police and try to provide detailed descriptions of the perpetrators and any vehicle they may be driving.