Police Investigating Scams Targeting Elderly South Tampa Residents

This notice is archived content and this information may no longer be accurate.

1. DATE/TIME: April 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm
LOCATION: 4121 West San Pedro Street, Tampa
VICTIM: W/F, DOB: 8/13/1930

2. DATE/TIME: April 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm
LOCATION: 4406 Melrose Avenue, Tampa
VICTIMS:  W/M, DOB: 9/26/1931
W/F, DOB: 3/18/1932

3. DATE/TIME: March 5, 2013 at 3:30 pm
LOCATION: 2901 West Euclid Avenue, Tampa
VICTIM: W/F, DOB: 9/9/1937

SUSPECTS: White or Hispanic males, 30-40 year of age. Possibly traveling in a white truck with a topper.

Tampa Police officers are working to track down several suspects who are using a variety of ruses to steal money and jewelry from elderly South Tampa residents.

The most recent case took place on April 24, 2013 at 3 p.m. A male suspect approached an elderly woman at her home and identified himself as a water department employee. He told the 83-year-old victim that he was repairing a water main break in the area and that he needed to check the water in her kitchen. The victim escorted him back to the kitchen where he spoke on a cell phone for part of the 20 minutes he spent in the house. The victim noticed that the suspect was relaying her address during the phone conversations. She became suspicious and asked him to leave.

Later on, the victim and her son discovered cash and jewelry missing from several areas in the home. She strongly believes that another suspect entered the home through her unlocked front door, because the male she was with never left her sight. The front door and other areas of the residence are not visible from the kitchen.

Detectives believe the same suspects were involved in a previous theft that occurred on April 12 at approximately 2:57 p.m. One of the suspects identified himself as a landscaper to an 81-year-old homeowner. The suspect appeared to be very knowledgeable about the victim’s property and he was able to convince the victim into taking him to his backyard. A second suspect posing as a water department employee knocked on the door, while the victim and the suspect were in the backyard. The victim’s 81-year-old wife answered and was led to believe the suspect was there to check the water pressure in their home. The suspects talked to each other using code words and Spanish on walkie-talkies, while they kept the victims distracted. The victims got suspicious and asked everyone to leave when a third male suspect showed up at the house. The victims later discovered that over $10,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from their home.

The first reported scam took place on March 3, 2013. A male suspect entered the 75-year-old victim’s residence under the guise of spraying her house for bugs. While the suspect was giving a demonstration,
he pretended to inadvertently spray the bracelets that she was wearing with the spray bottle. He then instructed the victim to take the bracelets off and soak them in juice in order to prevent damage. She complied and the suspect grabbed the bracelets valued at over $300 and fled the scene. Detectives are working to determine if the suspect in this case is connected to the two recent scams.

These scams commonly referred to as “distraction thefts,” usually involve two or more suspects using various ploys to enter the victim’s home. Residents are reminded to be cautious of individuals providing a residential service who show up to their homes unexpectedly. Taking steps, such as, verifying the person’s employment with the company and making sure all entry doors are locked can greatly reduce the chances of becoming victimized.

Anyone with information about these crimes or who feels they were a victim of distracted theft is urged to call the Tampa Police Department at 813-231-6130.

Janelle McGregor