Tourist scam on French motorways sees Irish couple arrested
A young Irish couple have been arrested by French police investigating a gang of suspected scammers.
The Telegraph is reporting that the Irish pair, who had two small children with them, approached elderly tourists in separate incidents and said they needed a small loan after their car and caravan were stolen.
It is alleged that they became violent once a wallet was produced and forced the tourists to hand over large sums of cash.
The pair were caught after a major police manhunt, which saw some 30 officers deployed along the motorway’s rest stops in both directions.
"The fact that they spoke in English made them seem more convincing," a senior policeman told the newspaper.
The officer said the scams were carried out in service stations on the busy A7 motorway, which leads to Provence and the Riviera, last Wednesday.
Radio network France Bleu reports the couple told two groups of victims that their caravan had been stolen, before asking for a small loan of money.
However, it is alleged the Irishman became violent and threatening once the tourists took out their wallets, intimidating them into handing over all the cash they had.
They are alleged to have taken €300 off one group, and a further €900 from another.
Once they apprehended the couple, police found more than €2,000 in cash in their possession, leading investigators to suspect they may have targeted other drivers.
Police eventually tracked the Irish couple to a service station near Valence and arrested them.
Local media said the male suspect violently resisted arrest and that two policemen were injured in the ensuing scuffle.
The Telegraph is reporting that the man and woman were charged with extortion and have been ordered to appear in court in March 2017.
They could not be held in custody as their crime did not involve physical violence.
The scams are commonplace in France with a large number of tourists driving across the country.
"These gangs systematically target foreigners," the police spokesman said.
"Sometimes they even write out IOUs to the people whose money they take. But of course they will never see the money again."