Street Scammers Target Latino Workers

A typical betting scene on East Fordham Road. (Photo by Zaira Cortes/EDLP)

The quick-handed and quick-witted scam artists who ply their trade on East Fordham Road in the Bronx often target Latino immigrants hoping to make a few extra bucks on their way home from work, reported El Diario La Prensa.  A translation of the article is below.

“Where did the little ball go?” a man cries out in Spanish. A number of curious passersby surround the improvised gambling table, hesitating about whether to take the risk of participating in this seemingly easy way of making money.

It’s a typical scenario on East Fordham Road between Decatur and Marion Avenues in the Bronx.

On the weekends, experts in street gambling put together a complex contraption of seduction that ensnares many people.

The organizers deftly move around plastic buckets to hide the “little ball” while their victims watch closely. Two or three betters, presumably co-conspirators in the scheme, pretend to win quickly, flashing $10 and $20 bills to pedestrians and exclaiming their glee.

Another popular game consists of guessing the color of a playing card. The participant must figure out where the red card ended up among two black cards.

Gamblers surround a makeshift gambling table on East Fordham Road. (Photo by Zaira Cortes/EDLP)

A Song of Sirens

Passersby eager to make a fortune approach the scam artists and bet a small amount of money.

“The first and only time I participated in the gambling game with the little ball, I put down $5,” said Augusto Rey, a Mexican man who lives in El Barrio, Manhattan. “Within minutes I won $15, which encouraged me to bet $50, because I thought I would double what I earned in a day.”

“I lost $100 in less than half an hour and I had to pay rent,” said Rey, who works in construction. “My landlord gave me extra time only because he thought it was funny that I could be so foolish.”

Hugo García, Rey’s co-worker, joked that by trying his luck, Rey lost more than simply a few dollars.

“My wife, who is in Mexico, scolded me and said that I couldn’t afford to give away money we don’t have,” he said. “If she were here, she would surely make me sleep outside with the dog.”

Geniuses With Money

Rey, 41, said that the scam artists try to attract Latinos on their way home from work in Connecticut or Westchester County.

“They gather on the weekend close to the Metro North station because they know that many workers are returning home with their weekly pay,” said Rey.

Local residents said that the gambling games in the street are very much a part of the neighborhood, like too much noise.

“Without betters and scandals, Fordham wouldn’t be the same,” said Jesús de la Peña, who is 35 and lives on Tiebout Avenue. “I’ve been living here for more than 10 years. When I first arrived, those people were already in the streets playing games.”