Police have arrested two con artists involved in a scam which netted them tens of thousands of dollars from their victims in Seattle, and detectives are now hoping more victims will come forward.
So far, Seattle police know of at least three victims, all targeted in south Seattle neighborhoods since May, each one scammed out of about $10,000.
“They’re typically targeting vulnerable elder adults” in the scam, says SPD Robbery Detective Tom Healy, who’s investigating the case.
In the complicated scheme—referred to as a “pigeon drop”—one suspect will approach their mark in a public place and strike up a conversation. The suspect will then tell their victim how they recently inherited money from a tragic accident.
“They’ve used 9/11, in some instances, to explain how they came into such a large amount of cash,” Det. Healy says.
The suspect then flashes a wad of rolled up cash or a bag of money, and an official-looking note from a lawyer, saying the money needs to be donated to charity.
They’ll then ask the victim if they’d like to be involved in distributing that money, and will ask the victim to contribute some of their own money to the pool of cash, as a show of good faith.
During the conversation, an accomplice in the con game will act as if they’d just overheard the conversation, and ask to be part of the deal, giving the scam an air of legitimacy. Both suspects then convince the victim to withdraw large sums of cash from their own bank accounts, and turn it over to these con artists.
“Their story is so convoluted,” Det. Healy says. “They’re trying to confuse people.”
In the end, the suspects walk away thousands of dollars richer, while the victims are left with an envelope filled with shredded paper, in place of cash.
Police want to hear from anyone else who may have been contacted or victimized by the suspects.
One of them is a black male in his 60s, 6’0, with a medium build, dark complexion, black hair with some greying, typically dressed in business attire.
He has frequently worked with black female in her 50s, 5’3, heavy set, with a dark complexion, also dressed in business attire, usually with large hoop earrings.
“There are other people out there that have been taken,” Det. Healy says. “We know there are several other cases around Puget Sound, and I bet there are others around the country.”
Seattle police are now working with police in Bellevue, Lynwood, Lakewood, Puyallup, Bothell, King County, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office on the case.
If you or someone you know may have been targeted or contacted by the suspects as part of a “pigeon drop” scam, please contact Seattle police at (206) 684-5537.