Police warned the public Thursday about a recent string of three similar “distraction burglaries” targeting elderly women home alone in West Covina and Arcadia.
All three burglaries, which took place on April 20 and April 26, involve similar suspect descriptions and tactics, leading investigators to believe the same swindlers may be involved, West Covina police Cpl. Rudy Lopez said.
“Each of the victims is female, over the age of 75 and was alone at the time of the crime,” Lopez said.
The crooks have been posing as workers asking to check on the victims’ water or pipes, the corporal added.
The burglaries took place April 20 in the 3100 block of East Eddes Street in West Covina, April 26th in the in the 1800 block of East Cortez Street in West Covina and April 26 in the 1900 block of South Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia, officials said.
Carol Krzywiec, 75, became a victim of the burglars after answering her door in West Covina.
She said doesn’t believe she normally would fall for such a ruse, but coincidentally, she had recently experience plumbing problems. So when a man identifying himself as “Rocko” said he needed to check her water, it seemed to make sense.
“That’s why I fell for the scam,” she said.
The man arrived at her door about 9:30 a.m. and said he had been working with a crew on a nearby water main and needed to check Krzywiec’s water supply for contamination, she said.
“I said ‘no,’ I’ll bring you a cup of water,” she said. “I still had my wits about me.”
After inspecting the glass of water, “Rocko” continued arguing that it was important that he check the water fixtures, and it would only take a minute. The homeowner relented.
As the man went to supposedly check on the water fixtures, Krzywiec said she spotted from the corner of her eye a second man dart in her front door.
When questioned about the second man, “Rocko” told her it was his helper, who was going to check the water in the bathroom.
As “Rocko” let water run from faucets, and the second man flushed toilets in the bathrooms, “Rocko” engaged the Krzywiec in conversation, she said.
“He pulled out a $100 bill,” Krzywiec said. “He told me the water company said I overpaid, and do I have change for $100.”
She told the man she had no money with her, and the men quickly finished their pseudo inspection and left.
In hindsight, Krzywiec said she believed the crooks used the $100 bill story to try to figure out where she kept her money.
She said when her son arrived a short time later, he informed Krzywiec that $200 in cash was missing.
“If that’s it and they didn’t hurt me, so be it,” she said.
Krzywiec added that the experience taught her to be more cautious.
“I thought I was weary before, but I’m much more weary now.”
In the other West Covina incident, the burglars convinced the resident to step outside to “inspect” the sprinklers while the second burglar ransacked the home, he said.
In the Arcadia crime, “The suspect used the same ruse to get in the house, but was unsuccessful in getting the other suspect in because the victim never left his side,” Lopez said.
Police described the first suspect, who contacts the residents at their doors, as a Latino man in his 30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and heavy set. He has black hair, brown eyes and a distinctive decayed or gold-capped upper tooth. He wore a blue baseball cap with the letters “NY” on it and was seen talking on a cell phone while inside the victims’ homes.
The second suspect was described as a Latino man in his early 30s, of thin build, and speaking with a thick Spanish accent.
Anyone with information is asked to call the West Covina Police Department at 626-939-8557. Tips can also be left anonymously via recorded message at 626-939-8688.
SKETCHES courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department (color), and the West Covina Police Department (black and white).