A pair of eagle-eyed detectives stopped a veteran scam-artist from victimizing an elderly couple in Northeast Philadelphia earlier today, police said.
Detectives James Arentzem and Margarita Moreno-Nix had been sent to Rhawnhurst because of a recent spate of “gypsy crimes” — cons that are committed by nomadic hustlers who pose as public employees, said Major Crimes Sgt. Joseph Cella.
“Transient criminals don’t hang around much,” Cella said. “By the time most of these crimes are reported, we’re a day late and a dollar short.”
Luck was apparently on the detectives’ side when they parked on Rhawn Street near Frontenac about 1 p.m.
The investigators, both of whom specialize in crimes against the elderly, spotted a man clad in a work uniform, clipboard in hand, with an identification card dangling from his neck.
“They saw him knock on an elderly couple’s door and then go inside. They suspected some criminal activity, so they approached,” Cella said.
The detectives got to the front door just as the con man was about to leave.
“The couple said he claimed to be a Water Department employee who had to check their water. He told them he was going to issue a rebate check,” Cella said.
The scam-artist, who was sporting a crude I.D. that consisted of a small photo pasted onto a card with the words “Identification Card,” was promptly arrested.
The trickster is a 65-year-old man who most recently lived in New Jersey and has a record of pulling cons in other parts of the country.
Police declined to release his name because criminal charges, including trespass and impersonating a public official, had not yet been filed.
The elderly couple told detectives they didn’t believe anything had been stolen from their house.
Normally, this type of scam involves a second person who steals from unsuspecting homeowners while the first person distracts them, Cella noted.
“For all we know, the second person saw our detectives and took off,” he said.