Investigators are searching for an unknown man allegedly involved in a series of commercial burglary scams across at least six supermarkets in San Diego.
According to Crime Stoppers and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the burglaries happened between Jan. 29 and Apr. 18 at different Albertsons grocery stores.
In each instance, investigators say the suspect’s M.O. is always the same and involves a $500 money order and apparently some sort of sleight of hand trick.
Here’s how the suspect’s scam works, according to deputies: The unknown man enters an Albertsons grocery store and approaches guest service cashiers to purchase a $500 money order.
The suspect hands the cashiers a stack of $20 bills totaling $480. When the cashiers count the money and it comes up short for the $500 money order, they return the cash to the suspect.
The man recounts the money and supposedly adds the missing money, handing the stack back to cashiers. Unbeknownst to cashiers, the suspect manages to discreetly pocket six to eight $20 bills from the stack before handing the money back.
Investigators say the cashiers fail to recount the money and give the suspect a $500 money order. The suspect leaves the store with the money order and the cash that he pocketed.
Officials say the suspect has successfully executed this same scam at six different Albertsons stores in El Cajon, Santee, Alpine, Lemon Grove and San Marcos over the course of about three months.
On Thursday, investigators released the man’s photo, as captured on surveillance tape during one of the burglaries. He’s described as a Hispanic or Middle Eastern man between 5-foot-8 and 6-foot, weighing between 190 and 220 pounds, with short, black hair. On the surveillance video, he was wearing a white dress shirt, dark slacks and wire-rimmed eyeglasses.
Officials are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the scammer. Anyone with information should call the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.