Two women were duped out of thousands of dollars in separate incidents in San Francisco over the holiday weekend, the latest in a series of fraud cases that police said today could be part of an organized effort targeting older Asian women.
The two most recent cases occurred on Sunday in Chinatown and on Monday near Market and Third streets, according to police.
In each case, a victim in her 60s was approached by a group of women who convinced her that she had stepped in blood and was being overtaken by evil spirits, police Capt. Garret Tom said.
The suspects convinced the victims that they needed to be purified and told them to go get all of their valuables to also be purified, Tom said.
After putting the items in a bag, the suspects then switched out the bag for another one that was returned to the victim without the valuables, Tom said. In each case, the victim lost a substantial amount of money, as much as $35,000, he said.
The incident in Chinatown was captured on video by a confidential source who provided it to police. The footage shows a group of four women switching out the bag, then placing it in a different colored bag and calmly walking away.
Police Lt. Art Stellini from the department’s financial crimes unit said the video shows the women are “very confident in what they do.”
Stellini said the women were likely trained in the fraud tactics and could be part of an organized group targeting older Asian women in several different cities, noting police earlier this year arrested three women in a similar scheme.
He said police are looking into whether the most recent case is connected to the prior ones, and encouraged anyone with information to call the department’s Cantonese language hotline at (415) 553-9212.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News