It’s a con right out of the Ocean’s 11 playbook.
A serial jewel and watch thief, who remains on the run, has hoodwinked several luxury watch sellers by posing as a successful businessman, bolstering his ruse by renting out shared conference rooms at pricey offices across the city, according to reports.
In the last two years, the suspect, surnamed Ko, is believed to have pinched at least six Rolex watches worth about HK$800,000 (US$102,000) using variations on the same scam, reported Apple Daily.
The con was detailed by one of his recent victims, a watch dealer surnamed Yeung, who met Ko on November 15 after the suspect — giving his surname as Yung — contacted the seller online and expressed interest in a HK$191,000 (US$24,450) Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.
The initial 3pm meeting was arranged for the underground level at the Harbour City shopping center in Tsim Sha Tsui, though, upon arrival, Ko suggested the pair go upstairs to “his office.”
Seeing the purported buyer’s expensive suit, Yeung agreed. His mind was put further at ease by the high-end office setting, he said.
“Two or three reception clerks who dressed decently opened the door for us and greeted him with smiles,” recalled Yeung.
“I was later brought to a big conference room where we sat down and started to talk about our deal.”
During the “deal” the so-called “Mr Yung” then asked the watch be inspected by an expert, whom, it was claimed, was standing-by next door.
Ko then took the the Rolex out of the room, leaving Yeung alone. At 4:23pm, the suspect sent a WhatsApp message to the seller: “Just got the money. Coming over now.”
He then disappeared, with Yeung soon learning he’d been swindled in a rented office space.
“I thought it was impossible for him to steal my HK$200,000 watch since he had such luxurious office place in Harbour City,” he said, according Apple Daily.
The exact same Rolex soon turned up later that night at a second-hand watch shop in Sham Shui Po. Ko — whose identity was learned via the identity card he used to rent the shared conference room — remains on the run.
According to police, Ko is a serial thief aged in his 40s who has previously served more than five years in prison for robbing a jewellery store at knifepoint.
He was arrested again last year for stealing a Rolex but jumped bail.
The outlet reported he’d run the same con on at least five watch sellers using rented conference rooms in buildings in Central and Kwun Tong.
Increasingly popular, shared offices and conference rooms in Hong Kong can be rented for as little as a few hundred dollars per hour. Some require ID cards to be presented or ask for credit card payments in advance.
Might be good policy for some watch sellers.