Con man steals £1600 in shop with sleight of hand

Anton Lasic unwittingly counted out cash for the thief. Picture: Scott Louden
Anton Lasic unwittingly counted out cash for the thief. Picture: Scott Louden
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A shop worker today described how a fast-talking con man pretending to be a casino boss stole £1600 from his Lawnmarket souvenir store.

Anton Lasic was left devastated after being fleeced in a so-called “Ringing the Changes” fraud.

The term – used by police – possibly makes the crime sound more innocent than it is. Effectively “Ringing the Changes” involves sleight of hand so skilled it would make Paul Daniels green with envy and it has “more front than Brighton Pier”.

Mr Lasic fell victim to one of the smoothest exponents of the “art” ever seen in the Capital.

Asked by the “casino worker” if he could change a wad of £10 notes for twenties, the trusting 67-year-old found himself willingly counting out the money.

However, CCTV footage later showed the suspect pocketing bank notes off the counter while his back was turned. The greedy thief used two more ploys to part the devastated owner from a four-figure sum.

He said: “He told me he was the manager of a casino and took a business card out to show me. He was well-dressed, polite and well-spoken. He said he needed to change £10 notes for £20s for the casino. He counted out £200 in £10 notes and put them on the counter. I counted them and found there was only £190. He apologised and found another £10 in his wallet. He put it on the pile with the rest.

“Then he pointed at a souvenir and started talking about it to distract me. When we looked at the CCTV, you could see him quickly take money off the pile and put it in his pocket.”

The con man then asked if Mr Lasic had bank notes with serial numbers ending in double digits as they would be used as “prizes” for a casino game.

While looking through £1000 in takings, the suspect took more cash while constantly distracting his victim.

Not content with his haul, the thief followed a shop assistant into a storeroom where she was counting up £10,000 in takings. Mr Lasic said: “She asked what he was doing down there and he said, ‘Your boss said it was all right’. I was counting money upstairs and – when I realised £400 was missing – I rushed downstairs. The man was there and said, ‘Thank you my friend’, and bolted out the shop. He had stolen another £1200.”

A former senior officer in Edinburgh said crooks were always looking for a “new spin” to exploit human frailty. He said: “Criminals are using tried and tested techniques but adding new spins on them, whether through technology or other aids. “Ringing the Changes” can be found in Oliver Twist but human fallibility does not change. Criminals look to exploit that.”

Pc Steven Skirving, of Police Scotland, said the culprit struck at 4pm on Sunday. He is white, slim and had black hair. He was wearing a black shirt and grey trousers.

“This scam is often used in busy premises where staff have access to large sums of cash,” he said. “The suspect then tries to confuse employees into handing over more money than they came in with.”

In The Real Hustle, a team of real-life confidence tricksters carry out notorious scams on unsuspecting members of the general public while hidden cameras capture the action.

Former model Polly Parsons, 30, features as a sexy decoy.

ELABORATE CRIMINALS TARGET THE LOTHIANS

CRIMINALS have targeted the Lothians with increasingly ingenious scams in recent months. Last month, con artists stole more than £30,000 from three victims in a phone sting which saw them pretend to be bank fraud investigators. The crooks called victims about “unusual activity” on their accounts, urging them to phone the helpline number on their debit cards. But the thieves managed to stay on the line – using devices to mimic dialling and ringing tones to fool victims into thinking they were through to their bank. Tiny iPods have also been attached to ATMs to film victims entering their Pins.