Alleged scam artist was ‘very, very convincing,’ police say

She’s accused of bilking people from Lynnwood, Bothell & beyond out of tens of thousands of dollars.

She found her mark in a Lynnwood nail salon.

By the time he caught on, she’d bilked him out of $16,000. He wasn’t her only victim, according to court documents filed in Snohomish County. Lynnwood police spent months hunting down the woman, who has at least three different aliases and birth dates. During their investigation detectives learned that Lata Dass had scammed and schemed her way into tens of thousands of dollars.

They also believe that she’d forged passports and doctored birth certificates.

Snohomish County prosecutors recently charged Dass, 42, with first-degree theft and identity theft. King County prosecutors are reviewing a Federal Way police investigation involving Dass, according to a spokesman.

Whatcom County sheriff’s detectives also have received a complaint about Dass, Lynnwood police Sgt. Frank Axtman said.

“We’ve been told there are other victims in Bothell and we’ve encouraged them to report it to Bothell PD,” he said. “The victims are sometimes reluctant to admit they’ve been scammed.”

The Lynnwood case started earlier this year in a nail salon near the mall. Dass frequented the salon for manicures and waxing. She told staff she came from a rich family who owned gas stations in California. She also strung together a story about a wealthy friend who was looking to sell two houses in Lynnwood and Bothell, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Teresa Cox wrote.

Her friend, she said, was moving to California and wanted to sell the homes without an agent. She told the nail salon owner she could get him a great deal. She gave him the addresses, encouraging him to drive by to take a look.

He did and checked property records and told Dass he was interested. She said her friend didn’t speak English and wanted Dass to help him sell the houses. She also mentioned that another family from Canada was interested and willing to pay cash. She told the man he’d need to put $10,000 down to secure the houses.

He forked over the money and she gave him a handwritten receipt that appeared to be notarized. She instructed him to prepare purchase and sale contracts. The next day she called the man, telling him the homeowner wanted a larger deposit. If he didn’t come up with more money, one of the houses would go to the family in Canada.

She came in to get her nails done and he gave her a $6,000 cashier’s check. They set a date to sign the contract for the houses.

She didn’t show up and didn’t answer her phone. She later sent a text saying the owner was headed to Vancouver for a wedding. The next week the man and his wife met Dass at a Bothell restaurant. She repeated the wedding excuse. The man took a photograph of the defendant’s car, including the license plate.

That was the last time he saw her.

He called and sent texts, asking for his deposit back. Dass didn’t respond and after a few weeks blocked the man’s number.

She eventually called him back using a new number. She told him she owed the IRS $400,000 and had to go to California. She blocked him again. Dass strung him along for weeks with excuse after excuse, Cox wrote.

In July, the man stopped by the Bothell house and met with the owner. She said she never had plans to sell her homes. The woman said she didn’t know Dass. She told the man the defendant had swindled her out of $14,000, which she never reported to police. She said knew a lot of people who had been scammed by Dass, Cox wrote.

Lynnwood police were unable to find a driver’s license for Lata Dass in the U.S. or Canada. Detectives did learn from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Dass is in the U.S. on a visa and has an India passport in her name, court papers said. The detective’s search of utility records found several addresses for Dass from Blaine to Bothell. The most current addresses were for a rental in Bothell and a P.O. box in Mill Creek. The clerk recognized Dass from a photo but said she hadn’t been in the store since January.

A property manager contacted Lynnwood police in August after hearing that detectives were looking for Dass. He said she’d been renting a property on 216th Place SE in Bothell since April. When he gave her the keys, she had a young boy with her. The man reported that Dass hadn’t paid rent since she moved in and owed $16,000.

The Lynnwood detective went to the home. It was fully furnished and there was an Audi Q5 in the garage. The property manager spoke with Dass on the phone and she told him she was in Colorado. The man didn’t believe her. He said when he’d gone into the rental there was food and coffee left on the counter as if someone had just been there.

The detective obtained a warrant to search the home. Every room was packed and appeared to be awaiting pick up. Detectives reportedly found several passport photographs of different people. There were birth certificates from various countries and at least two India passports for someone other than Dass. Inside a child’s ninja turtle backpack, detectives found financial documents belonging to Dass and other people.

The property owner reported that he’d last exchanged texts with Dass on Sept. 5. The phone was registered to someone else. Detectives obtained a warrant to track the phone. Cell tower data indicated that the phone was at an apartment complex less than two miles from the police station. They watched the building, confirming that she was in an apartment there. She was arrested Sept. 7 as she stepped out the front door and promptly asked for a lawyer.

Detectives then learned that Dass’s vehicle was registered to an Everett man. Police spoke with him and he said he knew a woman named Lata. He’d lost contact with her about six months ago after she helped him and his family with some immigration paperwork. He said Dass had taken a photocopy of his driver’s license when she helped him. He told police he didn’t own an Audi.

He then discovered that Dass had rented a house in Bothell in his name. Police tracked down more rental applications in the man’s name. The applications stated he was a nurse’s aide at Providence Health and Services. The man owns a mobile auto repair business. The applications also listed Dass as his emergency contact, saying she was his sister.

Dass allegedly bought the nearly $27,000 Audi using the man’s personal information. She also took out insurance policies in his name.

After her arrest, Dass was ordered held on $25,000 bail. She promptly bonded out. She was arrested by Federal Way police and booked into King County Jail. She has since been released.

Axtman said it’s important for people to be cautious about handing out their personal information to anyone or handing over money without first checking someone’s background.

“She was very, very convincing,” he said.

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