New to Town, Out $900

Couple Scams Chinese Student Trying to Buy iPhone

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office released surveillance camera photos on Wednesday of a couple suspected of conning a Chinese student out of $900 on August 11, just three hours after his arrival to Santa Barbara.

In town to take an English as a Second Language class, the 23-year-old international student was looking to purchase an iPhone 4 for his three-month stay.

Photo of phone scam suspect

While at an Apple kiosk at La Cumbre Plaza, a middle-aged man—one of the photographed suspects—explained to the student that because he was from out of the country, the cell phone would cost more. The suspect offered to buy a phone for the student for less money, and the student gave him $700 in cash, according to the release.

The Apple iPhone 4 ranges from $200 to $700, depending on upgrade eligibilities and contract agreements.

The student accompanied him and the second suspect, a woman, to the AT&T store at the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta. There, the suspects said that buying an iPhone would require $200 more, which the student also paid in cash. While the woman allegedly went to purchase the cell phone, the male suspect took the student to buy sodas at the nearby Chevron gas station. At the counter, the suspect said he had left his wallet in the car, and left.

Photo of phone scam suspect

“He promised to be back in a moment,” the report states, “but he never returned.”

After the student waited for two hours, the gas station clerk called the police.

Law enforcement is hopeful the released surveillance camera images will help identify the couple.


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