Crime And Criminals Blog - Crimes, criminals, scams and frauds.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Store Owner Says Thieves Hypnotized Him

Police said that two Indian Punjabi men stole more than $1,000 from the Marlborough Country Convenience Store on Monday. The men told the storeowner that they were guruji, a type of Hindu priest, and that they could read his mind, police said.

Store owner Yogesh Patel, 29, who is also from India, said he had heard of the scam but never believed it and never thought it could happen to him. He said he's now upset and embarrassed, WMUR-TV in Manchester reported.

"I'd never been (scammed), and every time I heard about it, I laughed at it," Patel said.

Patel said the scam began with a simple mind game. The men asked him what his favorite flower was, and they opened a paper with the correct answer on it: "Rose." They then told him to think of a wild animal, and they again had written down his choice.

The scam quickly escalated to personal information involving family members and a former girlfriend.

"They also said my wife's name that not too many people know," Patel said. "My mom's name they told me. And they told me what was my future goal."

Patel said he believes the men were able to hypnotize him into giving them money. A surveillance tape shows him putting cash into a hollowed-out book before getting more money from the safe.

After watching the tape, police said Patel seemed to have fallen under their sway.

"From him telling me, I wouldn't believe it," Detective Steve LaMears said. "Seeing the video, saying he's hypnotized, it makes it a little stronger."

Scam artists commonly use techniques such as cold reading to appear to know more than they really do. In cold reading, a scammer carefully analyzes a victim's mannerisms and other details to determine basic facts about the person.

The scammer then may make high-probability guesses and pick up on any signals that indicate they were correct, the TV station reported.

Common magic tricks also can allow people to appear to have written something ahead of time that they actually learned later.

Marlborough has two convenience stores. Police said the men stopped at the other one and asked the woman at the register where the Indian-owned store is located. The clerk at that store said she was sorry to learn that the men scammed Patel.

Clerk Marty Stokes, who works for Patel, said the store has never lost this much money. She said her boss is now blaming himself.

"He's so sharp. He's very sharp," Stokes said. "The man is right on the ball all the time. He's got a business head you wouldn't believe."

Even though the men didn't use a weapon or make threats or demands, police said they still believe a crime was committed.

"I would say that they deceived him as a modern-day gypsy," LaMears said.

Police said one of the men was between 35 and 40 years old and weighed about 200 pounds. The other man was between 50 and 60 years old and also weighed about 200 pounds. The men were wearing turbans, and both spoke English and Hindi.

The men may be driving a white Acura with New York plates.

Investigators warned that the men could try their tricks with other store owners or clerks, especially those from India because they would share cultural similarities the men could take advantage of.

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