LOS ANGELES — A well-dressed man who talked his way into a Florida sugar baron's hotel room and stole tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry is believed to be the same person who pulled similar scams on a Mexican soccer team, a salsa band and an Israeli basketball team when they visited Los Angeles, police said Tuesday.
The man, described as well dressed and with slicked-back hair, posed as a Four Seasons hotel employee when he struck up a conversation in an elevator on Friday with Jose Pepe Fanjul and his wife, Emilia, according to police. Later that night, he showed up at the couple's room and told them he needed to fix a problem with an air vent. After he left, they discovered more than $45,000 in jewels missing.
"I haven't seen any pictures yet but I've had many calls and I've had a description, and his appearance and M.O. sounds very much like a man we're calling Ricco Suave," said police Lt. Paul Vernon.
Authorities gave him that nickname because of his smooth manner and debonair appearance, he said.
Last August, the man persuaded a clerk at another hotel he was a member of a salsa group in town for a concert, Vernon said. He obtained keys to the musicians' rooms and stole more than $9,000. Before he left, he gave the clerk a music CD as a gift.
The following month the suspect arrived at yet another hotel and, wearing a soccer jersey, greeted members of a Mexican team as they left for a match with a U.S. team. Later, he persuaded a hotel clerk he was with the team, obtained keys and rifled more than $10,000 from the players' rooms.
Then in October he arrived at the Staples Center arena for an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Clippers and a team from Israel. Wearing a suit and carrying a clipboard, he entered the Israeli team's locker room during the game and stole more than $26,000 in cash and jewelry.
Fanjul, who police believe is the man's latest victim, arrived in town with his wife last week to see Sunday's Academy Awards. His family business, Florida Crystals, is based in Palm Beach, Fla. It is one of the nation's largest sugar producers, with 155,000 acres, two sugar mills, a refinery and other holdings.
Surveillance footage courtesy of KTLA