Thieves Preying on Anaheim Seniors

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At least seven Anaheim senior citizens have been victimized by thieves who pose as city workers and distract homeowners while accomplices ransack their houses for money, wallets, jewelry and other valuables, police said Wednesday.

No one has been injured in the incidents, which have also been reported in Los Angeles County and seem to target seniors in their 70s and 80s, police said.

The thieves lure residents to their backyards by posing as roofers, tree trimmers or cable-TV operators, Anaheim Police Sgt. Rick Martinez said.

The most recent reported incident was Saturday, when a woman was distracted for 30 minutes by a man who said he was fixing a water line behind her house. She went back inside to find her bedroom ransacked, Martinez said, and money and jewelry missing.

"It's a smart scam," he said. "We're fortunate it's only been monetary losses." The incidents began in January, with as many as three thefts being reported on one day, he said.

One Anaheim resident who evaded the scam was Helene Wohlford, 84, who said a young man in a T-shirt and a baseball cap came to her home on Gilbert Street on Feb. 28.

"I thought it was some kids wanting to trim my trees, looking for extra money," Wohlford said. "But then he kept asking if my husband was home."

The man identified himself as an employee of the city and said he was there to trim trees and haul away trash.

Wohlford, who remained behind the screen door with her two dogs, called to her husband, who was in another room. When Willard Wohlford, 77, asked the man for his identification badge, he said he had forgotten it. He left after they refused to let him inside.

Martinez urged residents to ask for identification cards, which are given to all city employees, and check for marked city cars before allowing strangers onto their property.

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