BEAVERTON, Ore. — Deputies in Washington County are on the lookout for a pair of suspects who have repeatedly succeeded in stealing valuables from people outside of their homes through a brazen con and some sleight of hand. Police in Vancouver have been investigating a string of near-identical crimes.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office said that it received three reports within the past four days involving the same two thieves, with losses estimated over $10,000.
In one instance, the suspects pulled up outside of a victim's Aloha home and called him over. They told the victim that they were going to gift him a necklace "as part of their cultural tradition." They placed the necklace around him, then handed him other jewelry and $5 in cash.
After the two pulled away, the sheriff's office said, the victim realized that his own necklace had been stolen. He said that it was a family heirloom that came as a gift from his mother. The "jewelry" that the two thieves had placed on him was all worthless.
"I was a bit confused ... what's happening, you know?" The victim, Thomas Xavier, told KGW. "So, I took off the necklace and that's when I felt – oh my necklace is gone."
The victim's doorbell camera caught only a distant view of the suspects' vehicle.
The same couple also approached an elderly woman outside of her home in the Cedar Mill neighborhood, telling her that they wanted to give her a ring. To do so, they pulled the woman's engagement ring from her finger, promising to return it.
"Instead, the thieves gave the woman a bag with a sock and costume jewelry," the sheriff's office said. "After they left, the woman realized her ring was not in the sock as they claimed."
The third victim was outside of a store in the Cedar Mill area. According to the sheriff's office, he was wearing a wallet around his neck that the pair took money from. When he demanded the money's return, they gave him a sock with paper inside and left.
Based on the victims' descriptions, the thieves were a man and a woman, both with a strong foreign accent, "possibly Middle Eastern." The woman was described as being short, about 5 foot, 4 inches tall, with dark hair down past her shoulders. The man was about 5 foot, 10 inches tall with short dark hair and a short beard.
Detectives believe that the suspects are using multiple vehicles. One was described as a newer white Jeep Cherokee with California plates. Another was described as a blue or gray cargo van with no back windows.
After putting out an initial statement about the crimes, WCSO said that it heard from another possible victim who described a much earlier attempt. It happened July 27 in the Hillsboro Winco parking lot. In this case, the suspects were in a newer black Mercedes 4-matic SUV with Virginia plates.
"Similar to the person who had the necklace stolen, the passenger (an older male) called the intended victim over to their car window and tried to give them a ring," the sheriff's office said. "The person did not approach the car so no theft was completed."
The would-be victim was able to provide a picture of the suspect vehicle from this July incident.
While they have yet to definitively link the two investigations, Vancouver police confirmed at least one instance of a near-identical case that targeted an elderly victim on September 6.
KGW spoke to Nicole Williams on Monday. Her mother, 76-year-old Stephanie Williams, was approached outside of her home at Van Mall Retirement last Tuesday by a male stranger.
"He said his mom was going to be joining him — it was her birthday, which was strange," Nicole said, "and then my mom and her friends went back into her retirement village."
A few minutes later, the man and a woman walked into the retirement home and appeared to sign in, then found Stephanie as she was attending a group Bible study.
"The woman told her, 'It's my birthday, I have something for you,' really random, but started putting jewelry on her hand," Nicole recounted. "As she was putting rings on my mom's fingers and as she took the rings off, she took my mom's diamond ring off ... and once my mom realized her ring was gone, this couple was up and running for the door, my mom said, 'Stop them!'"
It was too late. The pair got away, leaving behind a small sock full of fake jewelry.
"They knew what they were doing," Nicole said. "Yeah. They'd done it before."
Vancouver police said that another victim reported they'd been similarly scammed in a shopping center parking lot. And back in August, police in the suburbs of Seattle were fielding reports of remarkably similar crimes, though descriptions of the suspects included a child or children traveling with them. Vehicle descriptions varied as well.
Anyone with more information about these crimes, additional victims, or who can help identify the suspects is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office at 503-846-2700.