Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
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Pinellas Sheriff’s warning of “distraction schemes”

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A recent spate of so-called “distraction schemes” in Pinellas County has resulted in authorities actively warning residents of the potential risk.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office detectives assigned to the Burglary and Pawn Unit are investigating the distraction scheme, which is believed to involve a group of individuals targeting residents.

According to a media alert, suspects approach residents at home and request access to the backyard. As one person distracts the homeowner, another enters the residence and steals jewelry, cash and other valuables.

As of Monday, five incidents hadbeen reported to the Sheriff’s Office since January. All five occurred south of State Road 60 in Clearwater, however authorities are asking all residents to be on the lookout.

Based on the previous incidents, the suspects identify themselves as city employees or utility workers and state they are there to inspect the sea wall, a water leak, to check property lines or trim trees. Victims reported to have been distracted by the criminals for about 15–20 minutes.

The Sheriff’s Office is advising homeowners to carefully scrutinize anyone approaching their residences, ask for identification and perhaps contact their place of employment for verification.

Residents who feel they may have been recently victimized in this manner or have information about the suspects should contact Det. Ken Roberts of the Burglary and Pawn Unit at (727) 582-6200. Anonymous contact can be made by calling Crime Stoppers of Pinellas at 1-800-873-TIPS or going to www.CrimeStoppersOfPinellas.org.

Transient arrested for area thefts

— An arrest was made Friday in Palm Harbor in connection with a string of thefts in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office detectives assigned to the Burglary and Pawn Unity arrested Jeffrey Carl Mathis, a 34-year-old transient, along U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor Friday evening.

Mathis is suspected of committing a list of crimes over the past several months, including making fraudulent credit card transactions and entering unlocked vehicles and to steal their contents.

Media alerts state that detectives caught up with Mathis through “various investigative techniques” Friday evening, finding multiple driver licenses, credit cards, gift cards and a blank check in his possession.

Mathis was arrested and transported to the Pinellas County Jail. He is facing charges of grand theft auto, possession of stolen property, possession of narcotics, resisting an officer without violence and burglary conveyance unoccupied.

Detectives are continuing their investigation because they believe Mathis may be connected to other thefts in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Residents with additional information involving this case are advised to call Det. Steve Tacia at (727) 582-6200 or Crime Stoppers of Pinellas to remain anonymous at (800) 873-TIPS.

ehorchy@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1071

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