POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — When a man approached Jack Howser in his yard on Friday asking him about some trees hanging on his property, he thought it was a blessing in disguise.
For months, the 84-year-old Lake Wales man has seen his next door neighbor’s large oak trees get closer and closer to his home. After experiencing the trio of hurricanes in 2004, he was anxious to see the trees trimmed or removed.
However, what happened next, still has Howser scratching his head.
The man asked for Howser’s wife to come out of the home and give her approval on the job. At the time it didn’t make much sense. Now, Howser says, it makes perfect sense. While he and his wife were out discussing the tree trimming job with the first man, his partner made his way inside the house looking for and stealing belongings.
Howser can’t believe he was taken advantage of. “I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Channel 8 and other channels throughout Florida, show these in a program and they describe right to a T,” said Howser. “How these people work.”
Howser is not alone. David McClelland, 86, described a similar scam to authorities. He was sitting in his living room eating some ice cream when the man approached his front door.
“He rings the doorbell, backed off into the yard and backed up and started looking at the roof of the house.” McClelland said. The man then explained why he was there. “He said, my daddy roofed this house and it’s still under warranty and I come by to check the roof and if necessary seal down the raise up pieces.”
It was a lie.
McClelland explains the man then convinced him to come outside to look at his truck. That’s when the man’s partner in crime went to work in his house.
The sheriff’s office is now asking everyone to be on alert, and educate elderly relatives who may not know about distraction burglaries.
If an unknown person knocks on your door, deputies say you should not go outside. Talk to them through the door instead and ask for their credentials, then call the business to verify the person is an employee. Even if it is a legitimate representative, deputies say you shouldn’t walk outside and leave your house unlocked.
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect drives a white Dodge Durango. They say it’s a newer model.
Bernice Howser says her heart sunk when she realized her jewelry was stolen. Some had significant monetary value, other pieces were simply sentimental. She’s sick about what happened and wonders if these distraction burglars continue targeting the elderly, when will it end?
“I’m a Christian. And I believe Christians don’t do that to each other and I think what’s going to happen to him if he’s going to go around and hurt people like this,” said Bernice Howser in her living room. “Somewhere, something’s going to happen. ”
Her husband Jack is also hopeful the crooks are captured quickly. He especially wants to meet the ring leader, the con man who conned him in person.
“I told the lieutenant that I’d like to shake his hand because he definitely has his job down pat. He does an excellent job,” said Jack Howser, sarcastically, “then I said I’d like the detective to turn away because I’d like to smack the guy in the mouth for what he’s doing to people.”
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