What to Know
A group of five women have been targeting older Asian immigrant women in a so-called blessing ritual scam across the city
The victims are coaxed into handing over a bag of cash and valuables to be "blessed" -- but when they open the bag, the cash is gone
The scam has been going on for several years in New York City
Cops are looking for a roving group of Asian women in New York City who have netted nearly half a million dollars in cash from a scam in which they purport to perform blessing rituals.
The thieves approach older immigrant women, mostly Chinese, and tell them their families are cursed, police say. The scammers tell the victims they can ward off evil spirits if the victims bring them cash and jewelry in a bag. The self-proclaimed healers "bless" the bag and return it, but warn the victim to wait a period of time to re-open it.
But when the bag is re-opened, it's filled with water bottles -- and the cash and valuables are all gone.
The scam has been going on in Asian communities for several years now, and police have even launched public awareness campaigns to warn residents about it.
The latest rash of incidents stretch back to April, taking place in Asian communities in Chinatown, Flushing and Brooklyn, police said. The victims have tens of thousands of dollars stolen, and in a few cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One 55-year-old woman in Manhattan had $280,000 stolen from her in April, while a 61-year-old woman saw $130,000 vanish. Three other victims, women in their 50s and 60s, had $10,000 to $19,000 taken, along with jewelry.
An NYPD official told The Associated Press in 2013 of the grifters: "They know the culture, they know how to talk to these victims to get them to listen. One person's spirituality is another's superstition, and they prey on that distinction."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS.