Atherton police have released a sketch of a man who posed as a plumber, walked uninvited into a home on Mesa Court, and distracted an elderly resident while an accomplice stole items valued at more than $200,000.
The brazen burglary and theft occurred midday on Thursday (Aug. 28), and followed an aggressive encounter in the Sharon Heights Shopping Center with one of the victims.
Police said that shortly before noon, a man approached an 81-year-old woman at the shopping center, and asked if he could perform some repairs on her vehicle. When she said no, he persisted, and she ended up giving him a card with her home address on it.
While the woman shopped at Safeway, police said, the suspect went to her home, and when her 83-year-old husband answered the door, the suspect "barged into the home, leaving the front door open," the police said in a bulletin.
The man told the homeowner that he was there to fix a sewage problem that he claimed had contaminated the drinking water, and he went from sink to sink turning on faucets, police said. The suspect then drew the homeowner outside for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, another person whisked through the master bedroom, stealing gold jewelry that included a 2.7-carat diamond set in a gold band, according to police.
The Atherton man who was with the suspect for about 15 minutes was able to work with a sketch artist to develop a likeness of the suspect, and the man's wife confirmed the accuracy of the sketch, police said.
The police bulletin notes that burglars using the same ruse -- claiming that there was a water contamination problem and subsequently distracting the residents with the same maneuvers -- were reported in Burlingame and Hillsborough in January.
"Should you encounter someone in a commercial parking lot offering to do vehicle repairs or other home work, be very cautious," the police bulletin warns. "Do not share personal information. Do not let them follow you home to complete the work.
"If you have valuable jewelry in the home, consider storing it in a safe that is secured to the wall or the floor."