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Several police agencies investigating 'Distracted Burglaries' targeting elderly victims

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jan 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-28 23:18:36-05

ORANGE VILLAGE, Ohio — James Perdue has lived in Orange Village for 52 years.

On January 22, he says he did the one thing he warned his wife not to do.

“I told my wife you can't open the door for anybody and be careful,” he said.

But the World War II veteran did just that when a man approached his garage door asking for hot buckets of water. Perdue decide to help him before he became suspicious.

Perdue says the man was white, with a distinct tooth on the left side that overlapped another tooth and was wearing dark clothing.

“He came back in and when he did I guess I was at the end of it. I said look get out of here. Go home. Neighbor or no neighbor, I don't care.”

Perdue says the man pulled out a cellphone and began speaking in another language.

He left moments later, but Perdue says something was off. Perdue immediately checked on his wife who was sleeping in their bedroom.

“She said 'Did you see that man was standing in here?' I said there was no man in here and she said 'Yes there was. He was standing around,'” Perdue said. “I felt so stupid I almost said I’m not gonna call the police, but I called them.”

Orange police confirmed a second man was in the home and got away with two pieces of jewelry, while Perdue was talking to his alleged neighbor. Perdue’s wife’s wedding ring was one of the pieces taken.

“I feel badly about it and it shouldn’t have happened to me because I know better,” he said.

This isn't the first time an incident like this has been reported to police in Northeast Ohio. Just five days after suspects targeted Perdue’s home, a similar incident was reported in Willoughby Hills. Police say in that case the suspects were impersonating utility workers.

“The one suspect identified himself as an Illuminating Company worker. The second suspect said that he was a city worker working for the water department,” said Sgt. Matt Naegele.

Naegele says the suspects left without taking any valuables after the victims raised suspicion. He says the couple never left the suspects alone inside the home. They were not hurt.

He says he did follow-up with The Illuminating Company about its protocols.

“They said The Illuminating company never comes to a residence in a manner like that. If you have an appointment with The Illuminating Company, you’re going to have a scheduled time, you’re going to know ahead of time who’s coming to your house and the reason that they’re going to be there,” he said. “They don’t just arbitrarily show up at peoples homes like that.”

But Naegele fears something like this could happen again.

“It's very concerning that people will take the steps that they'll take to try and victimize someone else,” he said.

His team and other police agencies are now warning residents like Perdue; urging them to think twice before letting a stranger inside their homes.

“We are feeling away. Unlucky by letting them in and Lucky by surviving,” Perdue said. “I'm going to try to protect myself.”