Three teens have been arrested in an online dating bait-and-switch scheme they used to lure two victims to a remote part of the county before robbing and shooting them, according to Solano County Sheriff’s investigators.
Here’s how the sheriff’s department says both dates went down: Amit Chhoker, 18, would connect with the victims through an online dating website. Then she would pick up the dates and drive them to a pullout on Putah Creek Road near Lake Solano north of Vacaville.
“Then they’d get intimate,” Solano Undersheriff Brad Dewall said.
That’s when the accomplices allegedly jumped into action. Investigators said Branden Lerma, 19, and an unnamed 17-year-old boy, would jump out of the bushes and into the car where Chhoker and the victims were.
One of the three of them, investigators aren’t sure which one, told the dates to curl up into a ball, and then they were shot.
The three then robbed the victims and took off, leaving the injured dates behind, investigators said. This happened in April and again in June, with the same modus operandi both times.
“Kind of heightened our alarm that we had a pattern going on,” Dewall said.
Investigators were able to trace one of the victim’s phones to a house in the Sacramento suburb of Woodland. There they caught Chhoker and a few days later, Lerma and the 17-year-old.
“This could have ended very tragically obviously shot in the middle of a very remote area and then left with no communication in the middle of the night,” Dewall said.
Investigators say they aren’t sure who actually pulled the trigger in this case, because all three suspects are pointing their fingers at each other.