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Two People Who Robbed Elderly People Including South Asian Seniors Arrested

VANCOUVER – Vancouver Police this week arrested a 23-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman believed responsible for distraction thefts against seniors, including from the South Asian community, in Vancouver.

VPD officers made the arrest Wednesday afternoon near Kerr Street and East 49th Avenue, shortly after a 69-year-old man had his necklace stolen following an interaction with a man and woman on the street.

“This is a significant development in this major case, and our detectives are confident these individuals are connected to other distraction thefts in the city,” says Constable Steve Addison, VPD. “We still remind seniors to remain vigilant, and not to let strangers into their personal space.”

VPD issued a warning last month after a series of distraction thefts targeting seniors in East Vancouver. The victims – many of them visible minorities – were each approached in their yards or while walking on the street by a man and woman who tried to give them fake jewelry, then stole real jewelry from the seniors when they were distracted.

VPD detectives recovered jewelry following Wednesday’s arrest, and have already returned some of those valuables to their rightful owners.

Petre Alexandru, 23, and Gratiela Stoian, 18, have been charged with one count each of theft of jewelry, and remain in custody until their next court appearance. The investigation is ongoing, and police anticipate more charges will be forwarded to Crown counsel.

There was also a spate of distraction thefts recently in South Vancouver, and remind residents to be wary of the scammers.

Three seniors in the Kensington and Fraserview neighbourhoods were targeted between August 20 and 21 by a man and woman driving a white vehicle. In each case, the suspects approached in the vehicle, called the victims over, and tried to give them fake jewelry. They then subtly removed real jewelry worn by the unsuspecting victims before taking off.

“Distraction thieves are successful because they use the element of surprise to confuse and overwhelm their victims,” says Const. Steve Addison, VPD. “They often target elderly people or visible minorities, and in most cases the victims don’t even realize they’ve been scammed until much later.”

The VPD had already investigating a number of distraction thefts that took place this summer on the city’s east side, and suspect many more have gone unreported because the victims are either embarrassed or simply think they’ve lost their jewelry. Residents are reminded to remain vigilant, not to let strangers into their personal space, and to call 911 immediately if they see a crime in progress.

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