The BART Bandits

Photo of another shell game. Photo by Armand Emamdjomeh

It’s a one-stop, one-act con game that begins at the 19th Street Oakland Station.

The dealer sits and lays a velvet-covered board across his lap. He places three bottle caps on it.

“Guess which one the red ball is under?” he asks and the audience around him bursts out with guesses.

“The right one, the right one!” comes the shouts, one louder than the next.

The dealer picks up the right cap. It’s there.

“Now, who’s willing to bet me a $1 to guess which cap the ball is under?”

It’s Tuesday morning and someone is about to get played. It isn’t the first time the BART Bandits have struck. As recently as June they were the Muni Marauders seen on a bus heading down Van Ness. Muni Diaries, a local transit blog, received numerous postings on their acts. Earlier in the spring, they were on the 24 Divasadero Line.

Now, they’re on BART where in August 2010 alone, the system recorded well over 8 million riders — a potential treasure chest for organized hustlers. “It’s like everywhere else. With the economy down there is an increase in scam artists,” said Officer Ken Dam, a Crime Analyst with the BART Police Department.

Back on BART, the dealer is the same one featured in the Muni Diaries video. And, like his earlier outings, he’s got help.

Decoy suspect No. 1 takes the challenge of betting $1. “I will,” he says and wins a $1. Other commuters jump into the game to take the $1 bet. They win! The compartment’s on a roll.

“Bet me a 100 bucks,” the dealer challenges a woman sitting across from him.

She hesitates. Decoy Suspect No. 2 waves a $100 bill. He does and he wins.

The woman who hesitated takes out $100 with Decoy No. 3 egging her on. He’s gotten up from his seat to move closer to the action.

The crowd watches. Hushed. The dealer moves the caps around swiftly.

“The right one,” she says without hesitating. Nothing’s there.

The train doors open up at the 12th Street Oakland Station and the dealer and his decoys walk out — $100 richer.

As the woman realizes she just got played, a fellow commuter says, “It’s the oldest trick in the book.”

Since January 2010 seven cases of unlawful gambling have been reported to the BART police – four arrests have been made. Two of the four involved the same suspect.

To report crime or suspicious activity on BART Trains:

  • Report criminal or suspicious activity to a police officer or any other uniformed BART employee onboard the train.
  • You may also use the train intercom located at the ends of each train car. This will allow you to make your report to the train operator who will forward the information to the police department’s communications center.
  • If you have cell phone coverage, call the BART Police toll-free at 877.679.7000.
  • You may also use a pay-phone or cellular phone and call the police department’s communications center directly. Either dial 9-1-1 for emergencies, or dial 877.679.7000 for emergencies or non-emergencies.


Filed under: BART, Front Page, Transportation, Trouble

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  1. joe blow

    Seven cases of unlawful gambling and four arrests were made. Two of the four involved the same suspect. these guys know nothing is going to happen??? two arrested again? and we wonder why these creeps are all around us? its good for the cops and lawyers, judges,] and bail bonds etc. job security

  2. Brian H.

    Why is something that happened in Oakland being reported on in the Mission Local?

    Is Oakland in the Mission now?

  3. james

    What kind of idiot still falls for this? Pretty sure I saw this scam on LooneyTunes when I was 7

  4. Johan Francis Weber

    Send Johanes to deal with these thugs, I bet if they delt with Johannes, they won’t come back scam the riders. Don’t fall for that Shell Game, they like to prey on riders and commuters. Just report them.

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