NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- 7 On Your Side Investigates has tracked at least 40 people who have been drugged and robbed at New York City bars over the last year, seven of those victims have died.
The NYPD has arrested six people in connection with the crimes and are looking for at least two more.
Police say it's not a new crime but they're seeing an increase in cases. Some victims have been swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars and have no recollection of what happened.
Criminals are targeting people with expensive watches and cell phones at bars throughout Manhattan.
Detectives say no one segment of the population is being targeted, it's happening to men, women, gay, straight, it doesn't matter. The criminals are looking to get away with as much money as possible.
NYPD Chief Kenneth Corey said on Wednesday the victims aren't being secretly drugged, but that the drugs are being offered to them.
"They are actually approaching people in the bar, striking up a conversation, and offering to do drugs with them," said Chief Corey. After that, their valuables are stolen.
7 On Your Side Investigates spoke with the family of one victim who says he did not voluntarily take any drugs before blacking out and being robbed. Instead they say the drugs must've been slipped into his drink.
The criminal complaints show a variety of things were stolen from victims from bags to laptops. One victim had $5,000 transferred out of his cell phone's Venmo account. Another had $30,000 worth of cryptocurrency transferred from his cell phone app while passed out.
Police say two groups of people are behind the string of crimes. One of the groups is more violent than the other and is physically assaulting victims before robbing them.
There is a total of 40 victims, and seven of them died. Some of those deaths are the result of suspected overdoses.
"You've got a stranger offering you something, you don't even know what it is, certainly not something you should be doing," Chief Corey said.
The medical examiner reports are still pending but police believe some of the overdoses could be due to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that's being laced inside a variety of drugs.
"Now we're in the age of fentanyl, where things are very dangerous," said retired NYPD Chief of Detectives and ABC Contributor Robert Boyce.
A small amount of fentanyl can be deadly.
Linda Clary says that's what happened to her son John back in May. He was found dead, with fentanyl is his system she said, after leaving a New York City bar. His phone was gone and his bank account was emptied.
"I don't want any parent to have to go through this," Clary said.
Police are making progress. Six people have been arrested and they're searching for at least two more.
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