MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Authorities have identified a suspect wanted in Merced for a scam involving the loss of over $80,000 in cash and $30,000 in jewelry following a nearly year-long investigation, according to the Merced Police Department.
Officers began to investigate multiple cases in April 2019 where victims had money fraudulently taken from them, Sgt. Reynaldo Alvarez said. Victims reported that they had responded to radio ads where an unknown Latina was offering healing and counseling.
The victims reported meeting the woman at various locations in Merced.
During the healing or counseling sessions, the unknown female would tell victims that she had the ability to bless money and jewelry, Alvarez said. Multiple victims left money and jewelry with the woman only to never see her again.
Victims reported that the woman stated she would bless the money overnight and return it to them in double.
Alvarez said victims in Merced lost a total of over $80,000 in cash and $30,000 in jewelry.
Detective Jeremy Salyers worked for several months to identify the suspect but had been unsuccessful.
Salyers got a break in his case when he learned of a similar case in Northern California, Alvarez said.
He was able to identify the suspect in the Merced thefts as Perlita Afanacio Ballester, 29.
Ballester’s whereabouts are currently unknown and she is wanted on multiple felony related charges for her crimes in Merced.
Anyone with information regarding the crimes or Ballester’s whereabouts to contact Detective Salyers at 209-388-7771 or the Merced Police tipline at 209-385-4725.
The public can also send an anonymous text message to police by dialing TIP411 (847411) and include the word “comvip” as the keyword in the text message.