Police: Fake cop, accomplices targeting immigrants with 'lost-and-found scam'


by Jeff McShan / KHOU 11 News


Posted on July 20, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 20 at 6:40 PM

HOUSTON – Police say a robbery suspect has been posing as an officer of the law, and the latest victim was a shopper at Memorial City Mall.

Investigators said the victim, who went to the mall to return a shirt, ended up short about $5,000 – and it only took the fake officer and his accomplices about 10 minutes to do it.

"It’s called the lost-and-found scam. It involves at least three people, maybe even more," HPD Det. Art Mejia said.

The victim, Auro Lino, said he saw a man drop a small pouch in the mall, and then noticed another man picking it up. There was a gold bracelet inside.

But it turns out, the whole thing was a set-up. The second man reportedly suggested to Lino that they sell the found gold and split the profit.

Lino said he told the man they should go to the lost-and-found with the bracelet, and the man handed him the pouch and walked off.

Seconds later, a third suspect walked up, claiming to be a police officer investigating the theft of a gold bracelet.

That man told Lino to put his hands up.

Lino was scared.

The problem was, the third suspect wasn’t an officer at all. He took the bracelet and Lino’s wallet.

Now, HPD is hoping someone knows the suspect and will call to identify him.

Police do not believe Lino was a random victim. They think he was likely targeted about 30 minutes before the crime, when he withdrew $5,000 from a nearby bank. Lino was going to use the money to buy a car.

Investigators said the suspects usually target illegal immigrants, who often will not report the thefts to police.

"I think there might be other victims out there because of that. They are in fear of deportation," Mejia said.

Investigators applauded Lino for reporting the crime. And they’re hoping you can help solve it.