Tips sought in lottery scam targeting senior citizens

SAN DIEGO –Authorities reached out to the public Friday for help in identifying a pair of thieves who have swindled San Diego-area senior citizens out of thousands of dollars in recent weeks via a lottery scam.

The crimes occurred on at least a half-dozen occasions during March and victimized retirement-age Hispanic women in various local communities, including Vista and the city of San Diego, said Sgt. Karl Miller of the sheriff’s Financial Crimes/Elder Abuse Unit.

To con the victims, one of the perpetrators, calling herself Francisca, approaches them at grocery stores and initiates conversations in Spanish, according to investigators. During the interactions, the crook claims to have a friend with a winning lottery ticket who cannot claim the prize because he or she is not a U.S. citizen.

At that point, a man who goes by the name Jose wanders up and pretends to overhear the women. He chimes in, saying he knows of a way to get the lottery winnings, if the victims are willing to provide upfront money. If they do, he promises, they will get a portion of the monetary prize.

At that point, the swindlers drive the victims’ banks or homes to get cash. Once the thieves have the money, they drop the victims off in an unfamiliar location, leaving them stranded until they can get help.

The targeted women have lost between $2,500 and $10,000 each, according to sheriff’s investigators.

The female perpetrator is described as 40 to 65 years old, with dark hair and a medium build. Her accomplice stand about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, has short black hair and is heavyset. Both are Hispanic, with accents that do not sound Mexican in origin.

Surveillance cameras have captured images of the thieves.

Anyone who might be able to help identify the perpetrators are asked to call San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477 or contact the agency online sdcrimestoppers.org. Tipsters may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

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