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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Navajo Police Department has issued a warning to tribal members about a possible scam in which recruiters approach residents from the Navajo Nation to convince them to live in group homes.
The department said it is aware of individuals, typically in vans or SUVs, recruiting Navajo residents to live in behavioral health residential facilities in Phoenix. Navajo police Sgt. Detective Roland Dash said the department is still collecting information, but he estimates that between 60 and 80 tribal members have been impacted.
Dash said the incidents are not restricted to just one geographic area of the Navajo Nation, nor is there a pattern regarding age or gender of the individuals being targeted.
"It's everybody right now; it's just anybody that they make contact with," said Dash, who oversees a patrol focused on missing persons that was formed earlier this year.
The department has received reports that the individuals who have gone with the recruiters are dropped off in the Phoenix area and then have no money to get back to the reservation. Dash said he has met with legitimate service providers in Phoenix who have assisted tribal members in returning to the reservation.
The Navajo Police Department is currently working with the FBI to investigate possible criminal activity against some of the people who have been removed from the reservation.
"I'm trying to see where is that grey line between criminal activity," Dash said. "I'm having a meeting with (the FBI) on Monday and my first question to them is if there's anything I can let the public know."
Dash added that he is also in talks with the Navajo Nation's prosecutor about the incidents.
"The recruiters do not generally work for just one company and have been spotted at places where gatherings are common, such as flea markets, and often approach people they see walking. We encourage residents not to get into vehicles with individuals they do not know, even for a short ride," the department said in a Facebook post.
Those sharing the post responded by admonishing others to be alert and careful, as well as applauding the fact that law enforcement is focusing on the issue.
Law enforcement are seeking additional information about these incidents. Information can be reported to Dash, at 928-637-3028, or to the FBI, at 1-800-225-5324, or online at tips.fbi.gov.