San Francisco police today are warning residents about a “Latin lotto” scam that has recently duped two women into handing over cash and jewelry to suspects claiming to need help cashing a winning lottery ticket.
The two recent incidents of the scam occurred on Aug. 16 and Sept. 10 and both involved victims who were Spanish-speaking women in their 50s, according to police.
In the August case, the victim was approached near 18th and Capp streets by a woman who said she had won $200,000 in the lottery but was in the U.S. illegally and could not collect the prize. Police say you do not have to be a legal U.S. resident to claim a lottery ticket.
The suspect said she needed to get back to her native Belize because her mother was very sick. With the help of a second suspect posing as a passerby, the suspect eventually convinced the woman to give her more than $6,000 in cash and $2,000 in jewelry, police said.
After driving the woman to her bank so she could withdraw the cash, they convinced her to leave the car after getting the money and then fled.
The suspect vehicle is described as a white four-door Toyota, possibly a model between 2005 and 2008. The female suspect in the incident goes by the name “Tatiana” and is a Hispanic woman around 30 years old who is about 5 feet tall and 140 pounds with slicked back hair, police said.
In the second case, which occurred last week at 24th Street and Potrero Avenue, the victim was approached by a suspect who said she had a $250,000 winning lottery ticket and needed help collecting the prize.
The suspect was also joined by a passerby who convinced the victim to get in a car to go to where she could give them $2,000 in cash and about $1,700 in jewelry.
The suspects then fled in the car, described as a black Hyundai SUV.
One suspect was described as a Hispanic woman between 35 and 40 years old who is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs about 150 pounds and had shoulder length hair and dark skin. The other was described as a Hispanic man of the same age who is about 6 feet 1 inch tall, 200 pounds and said he was from El Salvador, police said.
Police spokesman Officer Carlos Manfredi said investigators do not know if the same suspects were responsible for both crimes, as well as if there are more people who have been victimized by a similar scam.
Anyone with information about the cases is encouraged to call the Police Department’s anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News