Police have finally nabbed the people who they say are responsible for scamming at least five Asian women of more than $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash over the last few months.
San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr announced the arrests today at a press conference, saying that SFPD worked with the FBI and other agencies to track down the serial thieves.
Police arrested Lirong Lin, 57, Caiqiong Chen, 43, and Huifei Lin, 42, on suspicion of grand theft, extortion, and elder financial abuse. Lirong Lin and Huifei Lin are also being held on out-of-state warrants, and Huifei Lin is also charged with one count of robbery. Police also arrested Feiyan Wu, 45, and Qinying Ke, 47, both of whom are also being held on out-of-state warrants. One other person was arrested, but was not charged and subsequently released, according to police.
"This case shows how far people are willing to go to make a quick dollar. In many of these cases, the loss to these victims is not just money or jewelry, but rather their livelihood and priceless family heirlooms," said District Attorney George Gascón. "I am here today to say that defrauding the elderly and vulnerable will not be tolerated."
As readers might recall, the Sunset District scams made headlines earlier year after several victims reported having been approached on the street by the suspects, and told they were being plagued by evil spirits. The suspects allegedly befriended the victims, convincing them that a "purification" ceremony was needed to cleanse them of the evil spirits that were also endangering their families.
The victims were then told to bring all their jewelry and money in a bag to a specific location for the purification ceremony. During the ceremony, the suspects replaced the money and valuables with old newspapers while the victims weren't looking. The victims were then instructed not to look in the bag for a certain period of time -- just enough time for the suspects to flee with their valuables.
Gascón, who called this a classic bait-and-switch scam, couldn't help but note that the arrests came the same time as Elder Abuse Prevention Month. San Francisco has one of the highest concentrations of seniors living independently, and is home to an increasingly aging population with a high concentration of non-English-speaking seniors.
Gascón stressed the importance of being vigilant about potential scams out there and to report any type of fraud or scam to the SFPD at 553-0123; for Cantonese, please call 553-9212.
Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly