Gypsies target elderly in Visalia, seven arrested

FRESNO, Calif.

Police say the suspects are part of a large criminal group that travel around stealing from people. One man had to drive after the criminals to save his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's.

This man, who did not want his name publicized -- said he got suspicious after learning his grandfather had met a group of people commonly referred to as gypsies while on a walk. They gave him a ride to a pet store to get medicine for his dog. After finding his grandfather in a car with the suspects in a parking lot, he tried to get the people to pull over.

"Once they refused to pull over and let him out then my heart sunk to my chest and I knew something was wrong but I just focused on getting him out of the car in safety instead of in harms way."

After a short chase, the suspects eventually freed his grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

"He didn't know he'd already been pick pocketed I guess and we didn't know until we got back to the house that they had also stole my grandmother's debit card and her id and before she could even cancel her cards they had wiped out the bank account."

This exclusive surveillance video shows the suspects at a local Target store, using the man's credit cards. Visalia Police say the woman on the bottom right is "Angel Smith" also known as "Bubbles Yonko" -- and is the ringleader of a group of gypsies targeting elderly people.

Police arrested Yonko and six others this past weekend. They say the group hit 12 victims between the ages of 55 and 90 -- all in the last month.

Investigators say most of the suspects have traveled across the western United States, stopping in different cities to rob and burglarize people.

Det. Brian Young adds, "They were selectively looking at locations, scouting out their possibly victims coming up to the door and using a rouse."

Police say Yonko is nearly five months pregnant, and was using her pregnancy as a way to get inside people's homes.

In one case police say a 70-year-old woman was punched twice before the suspects took off with her valuables.

Visalia Police believe there are more victims out there. They're asking anyone with information to call them immediately.

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