SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco police warned the public on Monday to watch their valuables. Investigators said a sleight of hand artist seems to be using his talents to steal jewelry.
Police said they've received 20 reports of a man approaching victim's in the city's Richmond and Taraval Districts, and initiating small talk.
"It involves some type of sleight of hand, where the suspect will come up with a friendly encounter, a close encounter," said San Francisco Officer Adam Lobsinger."
That small talk then turns to grand theft.
"There will be some kind of contact, just ever so slight, and the victim won't realize until later that their valuables have been taken," said Lobsinger.
Police said the thief then takes off in a getaway car. Investigators said sometimes the thief, or thieves, swap fake jewelry for the victim's real gold.
Authorities released a photograph of one of the suspects, 44-year-old Mamfred Oinescu, and also released a sketch of a man who may be in on the scam.
Police urged residents to be on high alert.
"Everybody should always be on their guard. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is," said Officer Lobsinger.
While there have been about 20 victims in San Francisco, police suspect the thieves have been active throughout the Bay Area. Investigators in San Francisco said the thieves made off with about $50,000 in stolen jewelry.