Fresno woman warns of 'lotto scam' after losing $20,000

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Police say the suspect approached the victim, claiming he was an undocumented immigrant who needed help. (KFSN) (KFSN)

Mrs. Ramirez penny pinches to make ends meet, and she says on Tuesday two suspects conned her of almost everything she owned in the parking lot of a 99 Cent Store.

"It's like a mafia," she said. "I don't know how many. They do it so well that anyone would believe."

Ramirez says it started when a man first approached her, then followed by a woman, and both coaxed her to help.

Now she hopes to warn other families after the two people robbed her of nearly $20,000 in cash and jewelry. Police say these suspect are preying on the Spanish-speaking community.

The man who approached her claimed he was an undocumented immigrant who needed her help. For her troubles, the man offers her a winning lottery ticket, but there was a catch.

"In any kind of a transaction, if anyone is asking you for money up front to get your money in return, it's not legitimate," Sgt. Bryan Rogers with the Fresno Police Department said.

The suspects asked the victim to pay them $20,000 for the ticket. That was when Ramirez withdrew her savings, took two loans from the bank and gathered up her valuables.

"I had my jewelry for more than 20 years," Ramirez said. "Everything was important to me - my money. Money saved for emergency, kids."

When the victim wasn't looking, the suspects swapped the bag full of money with a decoy. They quickly drove away, leaving Ramirez with a bag of newspapers.

"I still owe the bank $200, $400 that I have to pay," she said. "In my purse, all they left me with was like $3. When someone offers you money, don't believe - it's a scam because they are deceiving the people. And they are taking away their money."

With a lottery ticket, the suspects changed her life for the worse. The suspects were driving a white Mazda MPV and officers are asking anybody else who may have been approached by them to contact the police.

Police describe the suspects as:

FEMALE: Spanish-Speaking Hispanic Female, 30s, 5' to 5'3", 120 to 130 lbs, Brown Eyes, Brown hair, had a mole on the right cheek near her mouth. She wore light colored clothing and a light colored cloth hair cap and gold loop earrings. She identified herself as Genoveva Ramirez.

MALE: Spanish-Speaking Hispanic Male with an accent from Central America, 40s, 5'5" to 5'7", 150 to 160 lbs, Brown eyes, Brown hair, clean shaven. He wore a light brown jacket, white/brown striped shirt, unknown color pants, and black shoes. He did not identify himself.

VAN: Newer White Van, passenger type, with windows and side doors open to the sides they did not slide.
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