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/ DEVELOPMENTS IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Ring of Thieves, Con Artists Targets Older Women

April 30, 1999

VAN NUYS — A group of up to 10 thieves and con artists, most of them women, is targeting elderly females in the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks area, police said Thursday.

The group is believed responsible for about 20 crimes since January, said Det. Al Aldaz of the Los Angeles Police Department's Van Nuys Division.

On Monday, a 77-year-old woman lost her life savings to two of the thieves after they struck up a conversation with her near a supermarket near Van Nuys Boulevard and Oxnard Street, police said.

They told her they needed $10,000 as collateral to turn in a winning Fantasy Five lottery ticket.

After driving her around and buying her a soda, the thieves drugged the woman and threatened harm to her family if she didn't withdraw money and give it to them, Aldaz said.

He would not say how much money was stolen.

The thieves were described as Latinas, ages 17-24.

The group of grifters speak Spanish and English, and one of them appeared to be pregnant, Aldaz said.

Most of the crimes have taken place during daylight hours in an area bordered by Ventura Boulevard, Oxnard Street, Van Nuys Boulevard and Woodman Avenues.

Detectives said the group also is believed to be responsible for snatching purses and picking pockets in the area. In one case, a thief approached an older woman in a store parking lot and told her there was something wrong with the back of her car.

When the driver went to check, an accomplice stole a credit card from her wallet. It later was used to buy $3,000 worth of computer equipment at a Fry's Electronics store in Burbank.

LAPD detectives said they wanted to remind older residents to be aware of their surroundings and be wary of any casual encounters with strangers.

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