HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Thieves stole thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash from several homes in the Tampa Bay area.
Hillsborough County deputies say thieves are luring homeowners into their backyards claiming to work on power lines or trimming trees, while someone else goes inside the home and ransacks the place.
Deputies say there are five victims so far and three of them are within a few blocks of each other in the Town N’ Country area. They say these people dress in work gear and construction vests and seem very official.
“We had to walk way down here to get through the trees,” said Robert Williams, a homeowner who fell for the scheme Friday. "I got kind of suspicious that he was trying to lure me away from my house more."
Williams says a person approached him at his front door right after heavy storms.
"He said he’s from the tree service or the county, and the power just came on and I was confused you know,” Williams said.
He figured people from the county were going around to check on power lines because of the outages after heavy rain and wind.
Soon, Williams admits they were behind a tall hedge in his backyard. The man had a walkie-talkie and seemed to be communicating with someone else.
Williams' front door was locked and his garage door was closed, but he believes someone else went through the back porch which was unlocked.
"I go in the house and I see some drawers open and a light on in the back and I said 'I didn’t do this,'” Williams said. "I said 'oh my God.'”
He called and reported it right away to deputies. He hasn’t noticed anything missing from his home but continues to look just in case.
“They’re in the house a matter of minutes at most,” said Detective Hugh Alter.
Alter says they believe these are the same people who have hit up several other homes in the area. He says they stole $12,000 in cash and jewelry from another victim and $1,200 from someone else. He also noticed each of these incidents happened in the afternoon between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
“If they are suggesting they’re from the power company or utility company, call that company and ask if they are performing service or work in that area,” said Detective Alter.
He says to keep your doors, garages, and windows closed and locked always and don’t open the door for anyone you don’t know. If you’re ever in doubt, call law enforcement.