A Bakersfield woman says she put all of her faith and trust in a man who promised to make her budding business a success, but then he disappeared with her money.
Claudia Mendoza is a believer of card readings and spiritual cleansings or blessings. It's popular among the Hispanic population. When a man who performed these told her he needed to bless the $5,000 she saved to start her future business, she believed him.
"He was so convincing, and he told me when he read the cards to me, he told me a lot of stuff that nobody knew but me and my husband," said Mendoza.
Mendoza was referred to the man with a business card offering card readings, spiritual cleansings, and blessings. That blessing is what she thought she needed to make a taco stand she wanted to open, be a success
"This is what I need you to do for everything to go right," Mendoza explained what the man told her. "I said ok. He said bring me that $5,000 and we are going to cleanse it."
And, she did. Mendoza took her savings to a rental home in Lamont. She says the man there, who she only knew as Luis, promised to bless her money and return it. Three weeks later, when he called to say her money was ready, she returned to find the home empty and the numbers on his business card disconnected.
"And, I just felt sick to my stomach. I was like oh my gosh," said Mendoza.
Before Mendoza left the home, she grabbed three bills she found in front of the Lamont home. One has a woman's name and two others have another name, Jose Avila. All three of those bills have the same address and phone number.
"A lot of these people are good at what they do. They manipulate people on their bad fortune or their desire to get better," explained Senior Deputy Daniel Perez, Kern County Sheriff's Department.
Senior Deputy Perez is handling Mendoza's case and is using the bills Mendoza found, to try and track down Luis. Deputy Perez says two other people have also come forward with similar scam stories.
And, even Luis's landlord claims to have no record of his former tenant, only knowing him on a first name basis.
"The landlord was actually quite upset because he was owed money by Luis too. So, right now, the whereabouts of Luis are unknown," said Senior Deputy Perez. "There were other people in the household who we have information on, very little information about everybody. All of it was first name or no name."
"I feel like I've been robbed. Like, $5,000 is a lot of money for someone just to take away, and that's why I'm going to do something. I'm going to find this person," said Mendoza.
Mendoza says other undocumented immigrants have told her they've been scammed, but are too afraid to come forward. The Sheriff's Office says they should not be. They do not check papers and they need all of the victims they can find to find this man who went by the name Luis.
Deputy Perez says to avoid being scammed, never leave property alone with anyone. And, check the business out. In this case, there was no name on the business card listed.