Con Artist Suspects Sought by Police

October 27, 2005

Los Angeles: LAPD detectives have been investigating a series of elder targeted burglaries and thefts. The longstanding crime methods of distraction and fraud scams known as “Pigeon Drop” and “Theft by Trick or Device” have recently increased in Mission Area.

The burglaries that began in June 2005 involve two white female adults, with blonde or brown hair, 25-30 years-old with varying physical descriptors accompanied by a 2-3 year-old girl or a 9-10 year old-boy. The group knocks at the door of their victim’s home asking if they can enter the backyard to search for their lost cat. On another occasion, the suspects have knocked claiming that they just moved in behind the victim’s home and that they are having plumbing problems. They also ask to enter the victim’s backyard. While the victim is distracted in the backyard, other unseen suspects enter the victim’s residence in search of valuables, typically taking cash and jewelry. A white van or mid sized SUV has been seen in connection with at least one of these crimes.

A composite drawing of one of the suspects was obtained from one of these crimes that occurred in June 2005.

The theft crimes began in August 2005 and are being referred to as “Thefts by Trick or Device” or “Pigeon Drops”. They can also be referred to as Bunco Crimes. The suspects in these crimes usually involve a male and female Hispanic couple. The female has been described as having black hair worn sometimes in a bun, brown eyes, 5′-5’4″ tall, 140-150 lbs., 40-50 years old, wearing glasses. The Hispanic male is described a having black hair, with a possible mustache, brown eyes, 5’2″-5’4″ tall, 120-150 lbs., 40-50 years old. Some crimes have involved two male Hispanic suspects with similar descriptors.

The individuals have approached elderly Hispanic victims and request assistance with claiming the prize from a winning Lotto ticket. They claim that they are illegally in the country and cannot claim the ticket themselves. They offer to share their winnings in exchange for their assistance. They convince the victim to present money or valuables, such as jewelry, to demonstrate good faith. The victim’s money/valuables are combined with money presented by the suspects and placed into a bag. The bag is handled by both the suspects and the victim, but a switch is made while the victim is distracted. The suspects create a reason to leave and the suspect is left to hold the bag until they can resume their endeavors. The suspects never return. The victim soon discovers that the bag is filled with worthless paper. The following three vehicles have been seen used by the suspects: an 80-90s, red 2-door Toyota Celica, a 2004-2005, gray Nissan Quest minivan, and a gray 4-door compact.

Community awareness is the key to prevention and therefore we need your help to remain informed and be alert of these suspects. Report con games to the police. Do not feel foolish or stupid if you fall victim to a crime. Very few of these crimes are reported, which leaves the criminals free to steal from other people.

Anyone who may have any information please contact Mission Area Burglary, Detective Parga at 818-832-9882 or 818-838-9810, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.,to 4:30 p.m. Weekends and after hours, contact the Mission Area Patrol Desk, at 818-838-9800.