Worked Over: 7News goes undercover with deputies cracking down on distraction thefts

(WSVN) - They show up to do work on the outside of your house — but manage to sneak inside to steal. And distraction burglaries are on the rise. 7’s Brian Entin goes undercover with deputies for his special assignment report “Worked Over.”

They are the Broward Sheriff’s Office Burglary Apprehension Team. They spend long hours undercover trying to bust distraction thieves.

Sgt. Valerie Devlin, Broward Sheriff’s Office: “It’s hard to even get out and go to the bathroom because you have to watch these guys.”

Deputies say the men and women in these pickup trucks target the elderly in South Florida.

They offer to do work outside homes and then talk their way inside to steal money and valuables.

We rode along with the unit, watching the suspects’ every move, as they went from house to house offering to pave driveways.

Brian Entin: “So this is their full-time job?”

Sgt. Valerie Devlin: “One-hundred percent.”

Brian Entin: “They spend the whole day?”

Sgt. Valerie Devlin: “The whole day.”

Brian Entin: “Just victim to victim to victim.”

Sgt. Valerie Devlin: “Absolutely.”

Deputies followed one truck they’ve had under surveillance. They drove from Broward to a house in Palm Beach County.

The homeowner pays cash — and they start their shoddy paving work.

This guy even lights the asphalt on fire.

Deputy: “As you can see, there is the carpet hanging from the back of the truck. That is to conceal the tag.”

They never went in the house.

Deputies say they probably got spooked because the woman had a friend inside.

Angelina Macilwraith, homeowner: “He came in and said he would do the driveway.”

But 89-year-old Angelina wasn’t so lucky.

Angelina Macilwraith: “Oh, yes, they were able to distract me. There were three little kids, and they were adorable little kids. They had their whole scheme set up, so that I would be a pawn for them.”

Deputies say a pair of distraction thieves, a mother and son, Bessie and Tommy Thompson, told Angelina a child with them needed to use her bathroom.

Angelina Macilwraith: “I was watching this way, you see, and they were this way.”

But undercover deputies were watching it all from a distance and arrested the duo for stealing Angelina’s jewelry.

The BSO unit says they’ve arrested almost a dozen distraction thieves over the last few years.

Judge John Hurley: “Where is Rocky Thompson?”

Deputies say many of the suspects are from the same family.

The arrests have made a dent in the problem — but not stopped it.

Sgt. Valerie Devlin: “This has happened before, and they’re going to do it again.”

Deputies advice to homeowners: don’t open the door for unsolicited work.

Their warning to the thieves…

Sgt. Valerie Devlin: “I want them to at least always know that we’re watching them.”


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