Atherton police release sketch of 'distraction' burglary suspect

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."


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2014 at 8:18 pm

This sounds like a classic gypsy scam. How terrible for the victims - distressing and scary.

 +   3 people like this
Posted by June Curran
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 29, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Imagine, being approached by a perfect stranger as you are about to shop, claiming something is wrong with your car, and offering to repair it right there in the parking lot. I wonder what he told her was wrong with her car? Perhaps he claimed he could see smoke coming from underneath. Of all the nerve! He saw that she was an older, mature woman alone and decided to approach her. I feel just awful about this. I am somewhat older than this poor woman, yet I would have simply said, "Thank you. I'll have my mechanic attend to it." She was flustered and gave him a card with her address. I'm sure she regrets that. It is something we should never do. We seniors must remain vigilant when we are out and about. I even turn my rings around so as not to attract undue attention. I have my maid accompany me everywhere I go. She would ward off anyone with evil motives who approached us, you can be sure.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Ms. Curran - the article doesn't say that he said that there was anything wrong with the victim's car. Maybe this is stated in other news reports?

Also, she's an elderly woman, not a mature woman. As such, she was likely targeted for that very reason. I'm a mature woman (even though sometimes I act immaturely), and I truly hope to become an elderly woman. My point is that she was likely targeted due to being a senior citizen. I wonder, if caught, if he'd be charged with some sort of applicable enhancement, given the victims' ages?

 +   3 people like this
Posted by June Curran
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 30, 2014 at 9:22 am

"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."

Of course there was nothing wrong with her car. The thief only implied such, to initiate conversation. And it indeed IS included in the news report above. Why are you trying to mince words with me, Mrs. Hmmmm?

And I prefer the description 'older, mature' over elderly. Elderly is not how I view all people just over 80. Would you refer to Sophia Loren or Joan Rivers as 'elderly'? I somehow doubt they would appreciate it very much. Nothing at all offensive about using the descriptor words 'older or mature' when speaking of someone who takes care of themselves, and is very active and younger looking.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Memories
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Well, gosh, I think of Rivers and Loren both as elderly. How ironic to mention Rivers given her medical emergency. I'm betting both of their doctors consider them elderly, too.

I hope Hmmm responds to this post. Not sure why Curran is being so snappish. I also found it interesting that Curran focused on the unreported details about what the criminal spoke to the victim about specifically regarding car repairs. Maybe it's just Curran's writing style.

And how do we know the victim is younger looking and/or active? What's wrong with the word "elderly"?

 +   3 people like this
Posted by June Curran
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Thank you "Memories" (above here) for your important contribution to this topic. Please know that your comments will be given the full attention they deserve.

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