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New Friends Take $20,000 From Trusting Woman

March 26, 1994

SANTA CLARITA — A Valencia woman left her purse containing $20,000 in the care of a couple she had just met, who promptly vanished with it, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said Friday.

Blanca Califato, 34, told deputies that she was shopping in a K mart in Valencia on Friday, carrying a large amount of cash in her purse because she was planning to buy cars for her husband's San Fernando Valley auto-repair shop.

She struck up a conversation with a man, who offered to help carry her purchases to her car, where they were joined by the man's female companion.

The couple, both Latinos, spoke to Califato in Spanish, the man saying he was new to the United States and lonely. The man is about 5-foot-6 with black hair and brown eyes, deputies said, and the woman, who also has black hair and brown eyes, weighs about 130 pounds and appeared to be in her mid-30s.

They joined Califato at a nearby McDonald's, where the other woman offered to watch Califato's purse while she used the restroom. When Califato returned, the couple had fled with the purse.

"There is no indication that this was a stalking crime," said Sgt. Rick Doan of the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station.

"We are all scratching our heads around here," Doan said. "Why would you trust someone with $20,000? I don't know. She just said they looked trustworthy."

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