SF Cops: Crooks Targeted Superstitious Asian Women

Vivian Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, May 18, 2012

What began as a scam targeting elderly Asian women in San Francisco who believed themselves cursed by bad luck has unfolded into a possible nationwide organized crime ring, police said Thursday.

San Francisco officers arrested five women last week who they believe targeted elderly Asian women and took advantage of their superstitions to bilk them out of a total of $850,000 in cash and valuables. The investigation led authorities to suspects who were involved in similar setups in New York, Boston and possibly Chicago, police said.

Police arrested the five women May 10 as they tried to board a plane for Hong Kong at San Francisco International Airport. In their luggage, authorities found about $50,000 in cash and jewelry, cell phones and foreign currency of unknown value.

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Twenty-five women—13 of whom were over age 65—reported being swindled over the past few months in San Francisco by three middle-aged, Cantonese-speaking Asian women who claimed they could help them get rid of a curse or bad luck.

The suspects would approach women who were alone on the street and tell them they had ghosts or a curse attached to them. The only way to remedy the situation, the women were told, was to collect their money and jewelry and give it to the thieves, according to police.

One of the women would then place the valuables into a bag and perform a ritual over them. The con artists would tell their victims to place the bags under their beds for three days and that if they looked inside before then, the ritual wouldn’t work, said police Cmdr. Mike Biel.

When the victims finally looked inside, the bags were empty. {snip}

“The victims in this case are spiritual, they’re suspicious and they’re being taken advantage of,” Biel said. “They’re just trying to rid themselves of what they believe to be some sort of an ill spirit or bad luck they have in them.”

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