Visiting Chinese student bilked out of iPhone money

SANTA BARBARA — Authorities are hoping last week’s release of multiple surveillance images will help them find the person responsible for bilking a recently-arrived Chinese student out of $900 in cash last month.

After checking into a local hotel, the non-English-speaking student — who planned to attend ESL classes at Santa Barbara City College — visited a nearby Macy’s department store to purchase a cell phone.

According to Drew Sugars, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, the victim was approached by a stranger who offered to buy him a cell phone at a discount.

“There was strong evidence of fraudulent intent,” said Sugars, who described the stranger as a “pure scam artist.”

The suspect, working in concert with two females, then drove their victim to another phone store in Goleta. Discovering that it was closed for the night, one of the females indicated that she would enter the store from the rear entrance. The victim reiterated that he wanted to purchase an iPhone 4, whereupon the female informed him that this brand would cost an additional $200. The victim gave her the additional money, and, according to Sugars, the male suspect then drove him to a nearby gas station “so they could get a Coke.”

Once inside the gas station convenience store, the male suspect indicated that he had left his wallet in the car outside, and he exited the store to ostensibly retrieve it.

Two hours later, still waiting for the suspect to re-enter the store, the Chinese student asked the store clerk to call police. Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene. A review of the store surveillance video recording supported the victim’s statements.

Following more than two weeks of fruitless investigation and undercover operations, the decision was made to reach out to the public in the hope that someone may recognize the suspects.

“The public can use our Anonymous Tip Line at (805) 681-4171,” said Sugars. “We just don’t want to see any more people get taken by these guys.”

Sheriff’s detectives believe that the suspects were driving a white 4-door 2007 Ford Fusion during the commission of this crime.

Authorities believe the man recorded with a surveillance camera inside a Chevron gas station was one of three people who scammed a visiting Chinese national out of $900.


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