D.C. police warned Washington-area residents yesterday to beware of two con artists who are posing as representatives of a local bonding firm in order to collect money they claim will be used to bail prisoners out of jail.

The two suspects -- a man and a woman -- visit the homes of relatives of prisoners and claim to represent Mickey Lewis, a D.C. bondsman whose office is at 512 Fifth St. NW, police said. The two -- who sometimes work alone -- have collected as much as $1,000 from one woman and as little as $200 from another, police said.

Lewis said he believes the pair has collected between $2,500 and $3,000 from 12 victims. He said he became aware of the scheme about three months ago when a woman walked into his office and demanded to know why her husband had not been released from jail as his firm had allegedly promised her when she gave $1,000 for a bond. The woman claimed to have been visited at her home by a woman representing the Lewis firm.

Lewis said in recent weeks he has received several calls from persons who claimed to have paid money to his firm to make bond for their relatives in prison. He said all the people said they were visited at home by representatives of his firm.

Lewis said he does not visit homes to find clients. He and other local bondsmen said they do business out of their offices.

Police said anyone who may be approached by a would-be bondsman should call the check and fraud unit at 727-4159.