Distraction thieves target elderly residents in Fort Lauderdale

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida neighborhood has been targeted by thieves, and one elderly resident is speaking out to prevent this from happening again.

An 84-year-old woman, who did not want to be identified, was pet sitting in the neighborhood for a friend and said she and three other residents in the area were preyed upon.

Fort Lauderdale Police confirmed that crooks have struck two other homes in the Bayview area and Coral Ridge area. Officials believe a group, including two men and one woman, was behind the robberies.

The 84-year-old woman said she opened the door to a man who claimed to be plumber. “I hear the knock, pick up the puppy, and here I go tippy toeing over here,” she said. “There’s this guy standing here, and he says, ‘Come quick! Quick! Where’s your toilets? The people downstairs are being flooded.'”

She said she let the man in, who turned on the water in the bathroom sink and kitchen. “Now we have a lot of sound and fury in here, don’t we? Everything’s running. I said, ‘There’s nothing wrong in here,'” the victim said.

That’s when the robber instructed the victim to go to another water source. “And we come here, both the faucets go on, and we’re busy flushing the toilet,” she said. “He says, ‘Wait a minute, I’ll go back,’ and we did this a couple times back and forth.”

The so-called plumber worked to keep the victim busy as his accomplice entered the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea condominium and got their hands on the jewelry cabinet.

The woman said she was pet sitting for her friends because one of them had been hospitalized. “These people have been married for over 30 years, and they took his wedding ring,” she said.

The robbers took the homeowner’s wedding ring on top of one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and a Rolex watch.

The woman became a victim herself when the pretend plumber saw her three carat diamond ring and sprayed her with what he called acid. “‘You have to take your rings off and put them in there or they’ll dissolve.’ Then why is my finger not dissolving?” she said.

She said the robber then pulled on her arm and that’s when she punched him. “By now, I’m doing this, ‘Get out, get out,’ screaming,” she said while doing a pushing movement with her hand. “Funny part of it is he said, ‘Stop screaming.'”

Police believe that all of these cases could be related.

If you have any information on who the robbers are, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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