Between January and May of 2012, thirty elderly members of the Chinese communities throughout San Francisco were victimized by several Asian female suspects. The victims suffered losses of approximately $1,000,000 in cash and jewelry.
The scam involved Cantonese speaking suspects who approached the victims, one at a time, and convinced the victims, also Asian females that they were possessed by evil spirits. The suspects then offered to help the victims rid themselves of evil spirits by praying over their money and jewelry. The victims gathered their money and jewelry and met with the suspects who then put the valuables into a bag and prayed over them. When done, a bag was returned to the victims and they were told not to look into the bag for a period of time, less the prayers not be effective. When the victims finally looked into their bags, they found that their valuables had been stolen and replaced with other items. Three suspects were arrested and charged with many of these earlier incidents. They remain in custody pending trial.
In recent weeks, the Police Department has received several more reports of a similar scam occurring in the Central Police District. In these cases, the suspects were Asian females and the victims were elderly Asian females. The San Francisco Police Department has produced a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video to educate the public regarding this scam and to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward.
Anyone with information in these cases is requested to contact Inspector Kim Lewis or Inspector Julie Yee of the Financial Crimes Unit at 415-553-1521 or the Anonymous Tip Line at 415-575-4444 or text a tip at TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD.
San Francisco Police have also established a Limited English Proficiency Tip Line for the public to provide information related to this investigation in Cantonese at 415-553-9212 or 1-855-SFPD-TIP.
San Francisco Police would like to remind the public of the following:
• Use caution when approached by any strangers under these described circumstances.
• Do not speak to strangers offering good fortune or unusual offers.
• Do not give money or valuables to be “purified”.
If approached by any of these suspects with similar inquiries, please call 911.