Most of the victims, according to officials, were targeted through ads on Facebook Marketplace and other social media platforms, and transactions were mainly in Spanish. The scam involves hiring victims to help the suspects transport a large amount of money using their vehicles. The suspects then tell the victims that they need to take their car to another location in order to load the money, then drive away and never come back, leaving the victims waiting on the side of the road.
The Orange County Auto Theft Task Force says it has investigated more than 50 of these cases throughout Orange County since July 2021. Sheriffs say that in addition to targeting Latinos, the suspects may specifically be targeting those who are struggling financially. Officials say that the Latino population may be targeted because they might be less likely to report incidents to police.
"Members of the Latino community are being specifically targeted by these thieves in the hopes that they are too afraid to come forward out of fear that they too may be implicated in a criminal enterprise or have deportation issues," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. "Many people have to rely on a single vehicle for transportation for their entire family to go to work and school and having that vehicle stolen is devastating."
Police are urging anyone who has been a victim of a scam like this or has been approached to participate in something similar to contact law enforcement.
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