Los Angeles police are still trying to find a smooth-talking crook who stole $26,000 in cash, jewelry and watches from the Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv basketball team.
According to police and local media reports, the suspect slipped into the locker room of the Staples Center, where Maccabi was playing the local Clippers Oct. 20, and stole the money and valuables from the lockers of the 11 Israeli players.
The same man was seen earlier in the day at the Staples Center and was ejected for not having proper credentials, witnesses told police.
“Apparently the man returned, dressed in a suit, holding a clipboard and with some kind of credential sticking out of his pocket. A ball boy saw the man in the Israeli team’s locker room after the players went on the court, but the ball boy assumed the man worked at Staples,” Police Lt. Paul Vernon said.
Maccabi players discovered the theft during halftime and then went on to lose to the Clippers 108-96.
Based on surveillance videos, the same chutzpadik con artist earlier stole a laptop computer from the office of a Los Angeles police detective.
He had struck earlier, on Sept. 22, when, dressed in a jersey with the colors of the visiting Chivas soccer team from Mexico, he hugged the players as they left their hotel on a team bus for the game.
Then the man walked back into the hotel, convinced the desk clerk to give him the keys to the players’ rooms and made off with $10,000.
One month earlier, on Aug. 29, it was the turn of a visiting salsa band staying at a downtown hotel. The mystery man told the hotel’s receptionist that he was a member of the band and needed the pass cards to the musicians’ rooms.
The receptionist turned over the cards, the man gave the clerk a music CD as a tip, and then took $9,000 from the band’s rooms.
Police Lt. Vernon summarized the lesson for future tourists. “These out-of-town visitors are often unfamiliar with their surroundings and are often carrying lots of cash,” Vernon said.