Crooks posing as workers to distract homeowners during burglary, deputies say

Similar crimes reported across Orange, Polk, Osceola counties

By Jennifer Ortega - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Distraction thefts are a problem that is now expanding to three different area counties.

Deputies said crooks are tricking their way into homes and distracting people by pretending to be workers there to perform a service.

Some people News 6 spoke to said they've been too afraid to answer their door.

"I quietly walk to my door and look through the peep hole," Ronny Martinez said.

"When they're coming to the door and I don't know them, I just don't open the door," another homeowner said.

Orange County deputies said it's happening on the east side of town, and they've had six cases in less than three weeks.

The victims who are targeted are often elderly and home alone.

Deputies said the thieves pose as utility workers or employees of a company trying to fix the homeowner's roof, water line or fence, and as they distract the homeowner, a second person gets inside the home and steals whatever they can find.

"If I called them and they came because I called them, I would check for credentials," Larry Roberts said. "There's evil people in the world, so you have to watch out."

Orange County deputies confirmed to News 6 they've had six cases along Dean Road, Lake Underhill, Curry Ford and Goldenrod Road. The problem extends to Osceola County, where investigators said at least six different subdivisions were targeted by the same kind of crime.

"A lot of these folks, they're not aware of what's going on," Martinez said. "They're older, so whenever you're knocking on their door to extort them or try to take advantage of them, it's definitely wrong."

Deputies said in more than half of the cases in Orange County, the thief has been seen in a white Dodge vehicle. They also confirmed that Polk County has seen an increase in similar crimes.

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