SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Car thieves targeting Spanish-speakers looking for work on Facebook Marketplace have stolen vehicles in almost 50 cases since last summer, according to authorities in Orange County.
A joint warning was released Tuesday by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the sheriff’s department, and the Tustin Police Department says thieves have been targeting members of the Latino community under the guise of hiring them to transport money using their own vehicles.
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Since July of 2021, authorities have investigated more than 50 cases of people being left without the promised pay and their vehicles because they were purportedly taken to another location to be loaded with money to be transported.
“The victims were left waiting on the street for their vehicle to return and the thieves never came back,” authorities said in a statement.
Some of the victims were hesitant to contact police about the thefts.
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“These criminals are preying on those who may be struggling financially through advertising get-rich-quick schemes,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement.
Targeting members of the Latino community is a double blow to every victim, particularly because some may be too afraid to come forward that they will be implicated in a criminal enterprise or have deportation issues, and because many families only have one vehicle.
“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,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement.
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Anyone who believes they may have been a victim, or may have been solicited for a similar scheme can contact their local police agency, or submit an anonymous tip to OC Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855-847-5227) or at occrimestoppers.org.