1. News

St. Petersburg police search for swindlers who took thousands from woman, 84

ST. PETERSBURG — An 84-year-old woman lost $10,000 cash and thousands more in jewelry, falling victim to a well-worn plot that police call the pigeon drop scam.

The woman had pulled up to the Walmart on 34th Street S, officers said, when a man approached her carrying a bag. He said he had just found it on the ground and asked if it was hers. It was not. When he then asked what to do with it, police said, the woman advised he give it to Walmart security.

A woman then came up and asked what was in the bag. The man opened it and, according to investigators, revealed what looked like $300,000 in cash with a note. The note implied "the money was from an illicit source," police said.

The three, now seemingly in cahoots, decided they would keep and split the money. The man said he had a friend at a nearby bank and left. When he came back, police said, he told the women they needed to come up with collateral for the bank to be sure the money was legitimate.

The second woman pulled out what appeared to be $50,000 in cash, according to investigators. The 84-year-old said she had to go home to get her share. Together, she and the other woman retrieved $10,000 cash and jewelry valued at another $9,000, officers said.

Back at Walmart, the man took the collateral and said he would return in five minutes. The other woman said she had to go inside the store. Neither returned.

Investigators ask anyone with information about the swindlers to call (727) 893-7780 or text "SPPD" and a tip to 847-411. The man was described as about 6 feet 1, 50 to 60 years old, black, with a gold necklace and bracelet. The woman was described as about 5 feet 11, black, with a pink blouse, white pants and blond hair.