Alvin Malhi is 40 and by his own account, not especially attractive. So when the young, appealing blond approached him at Nikki Beach late Sunday night, he thought he won the lottery.
“She said I don’t like young boys. I like men. I thought, ‘Wow, this must be my lucky day,’ ” Malhi said.
Police though, believe it was a scam from the start. One that almost cost Malhi a $28,000 Rolex watch that he said he spent seven years saving up for. This time, though, Malhi’s persistence and alertness paid off.
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A lengthy early morning chase, a confrontation, and calls to police got him his watch back — and sent Liliana Vanegas, 25, and Francisco Trujillo, 30, to jail.
“She fooled me pretty good,” Malhi said Tuesday.
Malhi said his interaction with the Colombian beauty began innocently enough Sunday night. He was celebrating his brother-in-law’s bachelor party at Nikki Beach on Ocean Drive in South Beach, when he spotted her about 20 feet away. Friends approached her, Malhi said, but she rebuffed them.
As he was leaving to get a cab at about 4 a.m. Monday, Malhi said Vanegas smiled at him, then sidled up to him as he was waiting for a taxi. She asked him if he had booze in his room at the Loew’s Hotel, 1601 Collins Ave., where he was staying.
“Of course I wanted to take her to bed,” Malhi said. “But she wouldn’t let me touch her.”
The two downed shots of whiskey, then passed out in the same bed. At 7 a.m., Malhi said, he noticed Vanegas get dressed quickly, put on her shoes and race out the hotel room’s door. Also gone: his expensive Rolex.
So Malhi threw on some pants and chased Vanegas, first down the elevator, then into the lobby. By then, she was waiting for a cab on Collins Avenue and 16th Street. He said he confronted her. She denied stealing anything.
When she jumped into the taxi, Malhi yelled at the driver that he’d been ripped off. Vanegas got out and hailed another cab. Malhi said he kept yelling. She got out of another cab. Then she called Trujillo on her cellphone. Police said he showed up in a white Mercedes. She jumped in. The duo sped off.
A few minutes later, though, on the MacArthur Causeway, police caught up with Trujillo. Malhi identified them. They were arrested. Malhi got his watch back.
Vanegas was charged with grand theft and cocaine possession. Her bond was set at $21,000 and she remained in jail Tuesday. Trujillo was charged with grand theft and driving without a license. His bond was set at $10,000 and he was also still in jail Tuesday.
Now Malhi, an executive at a transportation company just outside of Toronto, has some explaining to do — especially to his wife.
“I told her 99 percent of the truth,” he said. “I told her [Vanegas] was a stripper we brought back to the room for my brother-in-law.”