A scam that targets elderly Chinese women has hit both coasts of the mainland and now appears to have spread to Hawaii.
The women are swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry and money.
Honolulu police and Chinatown leaders are working to spread the word about the scam before there are any more victims.
Chinatown Business and Community Association member Chu Lan Shubert-Kwok is busy getting the word out as quickly as possible.
Sunday morning she was at the Chinatown Cultural Plaza handing out fliers in both Chinese and English that warn of the scam.
"They’re after money. They’re merciless," said Shubert-Kwock.
The fliers have composite pictures of the three suspects believed to be targeting elderly women in Chinatown and swindling them out of jewelry and cash.
Police have opened second degree theft cases involving at least two Honolulu women who they say have been ripped off by these scam artists who prey on the victims' cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Shubert-Kwock said she knows of about five cases in the past few weeks -- and the method of operation is the same.
She said the victim will be approached by two to three Chinese-speaking females who convince the victims they are cursed or possessed by evil spirits, but can be cured if they turn over their jewelry and cash to be blessed.
"They go home, collect the stuff and meet them at a predetermined location and give them the pouch," said Shubert-Kwock. "(The suspects) either pray right there or take it away to pray and return it to them. A lot of times they say ‘Don’t open the pouch for a few days because then the magic won’t work.'"
By the time the victims open the bags and realize their valuables have been replaced with worthless items, it's too late.
The cases in Hawaii are similar to scams reported over the past year in cities including Boston, New York and San Francisco. L ast May, San Francisco police arrested and charged three women believed to have stolen more than $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash from five victims.
Shubert-Kwock believes this is just part of a bigger crime ring.
"We don’t know how big the gang is. I don’t believe there’s only these three people," said Shubert-Kwock.
Shubert-Kwock said she's hoping the public's help will keep someone from losing their family's life savings.
Fliers in both Chinese and English warning about the scam are going to be handed out throughout Chinatown on Monday.
Anyone with information about these suspects should call HPD at (808) 723-8761.