Scam Artists Targeting Asian Tourists in Wine-Bottle Ruse, Police Warn

By Alan Neuhauser on March 26, 2013 1:28pm | Updated on March 26, 2013 3:28pm

 Scam artists have added a twist to an old scheme, police say, bumping into tourists while carrying wine bottles, dropping the bottles onto the sidewalk so they shatter, then demanding compensation.
Scam artists have added a twist to an old scheme, police say, bumping into tourists while carrying wine bottles, dropping the bottles onto the sidewalk so they shatter, then demanding compensation.
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Spencer Platt

MIDTOWN — They break it, you buy it.

Tourist-targeting scam artists have started going BYOB, police warn, bumping into pedestrians, dropping purportedly pricey bottles of wine to shatter on the sidewalk, then demanding compensation. 

The crooks often brandish receipts that "prove" the wine's value, said Inspector Timothy Beaudette, commander of Midtown North Precinct.

"They drop it and they got a receipt and they say, 'You broke my wine bottle. Give me $60!'" he said at a recent precinct community council meeting.

"It happens to the tourists, particularly they seem to pick on Asians," Beaudette said. "I don't know why. Nine out of 10 are young Asian men."

The ruse — a twist on the well-worn scheme of bumping into tourists and dropping a pair of glasses — has remained "sort of isolated," police said. It reappears periodically in Midtown and other tourist-heavy neighborhoods, especially when a recidivist scam-artist is released from prison, they added.

The perpetrators also sometimes use bottles of vodka, replacing the alcohol with water, cops said. Since even moderate wines are far more expensive than top-shelf liquors — meaning suspects can demand more money when they shatter the bottles — wines are more often used as props in the acts.

"It's not a huge, huge problem," a law enforcement source said, adding, "If you say it's a scam, if you know it's a scam, they're only going to push you so hard."

The incidents are under investigation.

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