Latin Lotto Scam on Rise

June 15, 2006

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department has issued a warning to the public about the pervasiveness of a bunco scam that targets Spanish-speaking residents.

“It’s called the Latin Lotto Scam,” said Detective Bob Haro of the Commercial Crimes Division. “The suspects approach Spanish-speaking targets and offer them a deal to cash in a lottery ticket. We want to remind everyone, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Victims have been conned out of thousands of dollars at a time. Over the last six months, Detective Haro estimated the con artists have bilked people out of $250,000.

The suspects are also Spanish-speaking and claim to be in the country illegally. They use that ruse as a way to con their way into the victim’s confidence. The suspects, usually a man and a woman working together, tell the target they need a legal resident to redeem the lotto ticket for them. The suspects shows “good-faith” money and ask the target to do the same. The two parties exchange their good-faith packages until the lotto ticket is redeemed.

“Of course, the lotto ticket is bogus and cannot be redeemed and the good-faith money from the suspects is shredded newspaper,” explained Detective Martinez, who is Detective Haro’s partner. “The suspect’s excuse themselves from the victim and take off with the real money. It’s a classic bait and switch.”

Detectives have put together two sketches of two suspects, but there could be many different pairs of con artists operating the scheme. The man and woman portrayed in the sketches are both Hispanic. The man is nearly 50 years old with dyed, black hair. His partner is a 30-year-old woman with curly hair, pulled back in a ponytail. She is only 4 feet 10 inches tall.

The public, especially the Spanish-speaking public, should use caution if approached by anyone with a similar scheme. Anyone with information about the suspects can call Detectives Haro or Martinez at 213-485-3795. On weekends and during off-hours, call the 24-hour toll free number at 1-877-LAWFULL (529-3855).

Both detectives are available for interviews by the media. Detective Martinez is available for interviews in Spanish. Copies of the suspect sketches are available from Media Relations Section, upon request.