Shell game shyster shut down

A crafty crook tricked tourists into playing a rigged game at Fisherman’s Wharf, but he could not fool a jury, prosecutors said Wednesday.

An Oakland scammer has been convicted of luring unwitting visitors and residents into losing their cash on a shell game at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said in a statement.

Larry Michael Barnes, 56, had participants placing bets on which of three bottle caps contained a ball after he shuffled them. Barnes used a sleight-of-hand trick to fool bettors into believing the ball was under a certain bottle cap, Assistant District Attorney Seth Steward said.

He could make a participant lose whenever he wanted, Steward said.

He had two buddies chip in on the scam. They would either act as lookout for the presence of cops, or they would play the game and win, convincing passersby that they could win as well, Steward said.

“You think your chances are pretty good,” he said. “Even if you guess right, you’re going to lose money.”
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Cops arrested the scammers Dec. 26 at Fisherman’s Wharf. They found the crooks with more than $1,200 cash, prosecutors said.

A San Francisco cop testified during Barnes’ trial. He demonstrated the defendant’s shell game to the jury.

It took the jury only 15 minutes to find Barnes guilty of one count of unlawful gambling and three counts of obtaining money by fraud or trick, prosecutors said.

Barnes faces up to six months in the county jail, a fine and restitution. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

“We have no tolerance for individuals who prey on our residents and visitors,” Harris said in a statement.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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