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Local News in Brief : Westminster : Man Held in Alleged Bargains Scam at Malls

Police said that a man who posed as a Sears employee and offered bargains on appliances and electronic gear was in custody Monday on suspicion of stealing more than $20,000 from people at Westminster and Costa Mesa malls.

Robert Vito Vasti, 33, is suspected in at least four scams in which the victims were told to deliver cash in a sealed envelope for television sets, videocassette recorders and video cameras, Westminster Police Detective Dave Stronach said.

Vasti was arrested Friday night after two employees from the Pro Tire Shop in Tustin met him at the Westminster Mall with $3,000 cash in a sealed envelope, Stronach said.

The employees, Greg Wood and Joe Small, became suspicious about the cheap prices and called police. While undercover officers watched, Vasti offered to take them to a Sears loading dock to pick up their merchandise.

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Vasti was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and was being held at County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Arraignment was set for this morning in West Municipal Court.

Detectives believe that Vasti was involved in a least three other such scams, but Stronach said he may be a suspect in a total of eight to 10 such operations throughout the county. All involve small businessmen and large malls with Sears stores, where Vasti allegedly took the money and never returned, he said.

“It’s the same identical thing,” Stronach said. “In one case, he even pointed to an employee inside the store and told the victim he’d be right out to load his appliances.”


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