Police release suspect sketches in string of scams

April 21, 2012 7:05:21 PM PDT
San Francisco police have released sketches of three suspects involved in stealing jewelry and money from at least 21 people across the city in a scam targeting older Chinese women.

Police held a news conference March 28 to discuss incidents occurring in the Sunset District, all connected to three female suspects. Since then, a total of 21 incidents have been reported across the city, according to police.

The three suspects, described as Chinese women between 40 and 46 years old who speak Cantonese, have not been found.

In cases previously described by police, a Chinese woman walking alone was approached by another woman who asked her if she knew the location of an herbal doctor. A second suspect then appeared and said she knew of an herbal doctor, and convinced the victim to go there, according to police.

Each victim then met with a third suspect who claimed to be the daughter or granddaughter of the herbal doctor and told the victim that she was cursed, had a ghost attached to her and needed to be "purified" along with her valuables, police said.

At that point, each victim went home to collect her valuables and handed them to the third suspect, who put them in a bag and performed some sort of ritual, according to police.

The suspect then gave the bag back to the victim but told her not to look into it or else the ritual would not work. The suspect also said not to tell anyone about the ritual or else the ghost would attach to the other person, police said.

The victim in each case looked into the bag afterward and found that the valuables -- large amounts of jewelry and cash -- were gone, according to police.

In other cases, a Chinese woman was approached by a suspect with a jade bracelet. While the first suspect struck up a conversation with the victim, a second suspect approached and said that the jade bracelet was a good luck charm and worth a lot of money, police said.

At some point, a third suspect would approach and rave about the bracelet, offering to purchase it. The victim was then offered a chance to buy the bracelet, and was tricked into buying it for a large amount of cash, according to police.

Police are reminding the public to use caution when they are approached by strangers. Do not allow them to touch you or your hands, do not speak to anyone offering you good fortune or unusual offers and do not give money or valuables to be "purified."

If you experience a similar incident, call 911.

Anyone with information on any of the recent cases is asked to call the Police Department's financial crimes unit at (415) 553-1521.

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