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Criminals pose as city workers to loot house
CityIDcardsDSC 0215a
A strip of sample City of Manteca identification cards show a city seal on the bottom of the cards with a variety of different colored stripes across the top of the cards identifying the employee’s specific department. A black stripe is for finance, red is for the fire department and blue is for police. Yellow is for community development, gray for parks and recreation and brown represents a public works employee. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Three fast-talking men wearing hard hats and orange safety vests posed as city water department workers and duped a retired couple out of cash and jewelry when they had them looking the other way.

Arnold Weibel, saying they had “lost quite a lot” in the burglary,  built his home in the 2000 block of West Louise Avenue in 1963 and operated an electric business in Manteca for many years.  It continued to be their comfortable family home as they went into their retirement years and he busied himself keeping up the yard.

It was his work in the front yard that apparently caught the eyes of the four men – in a gypsy-styled con operation – riding in a white pickup truck, pulling up to his residence and singling him out.  He had just finished having lunch with his wife and returned to his landscaping chores out front at about 1 p.m., he said.

Claiming to be from the city water department, Weibel said they had an issue with his water hookup in the back yard and wanted to check the meter. They added they needed to check it out with him.  He accompanied them to the rear yard and his wife soon followed from inside the house, curious as to their interest.  The front door was apparently left unlocked while the three kept the two seniors occupied with questions.

Police believe that while the three con men were in the back yard talking with the couple, a fourth entered the home and quickly ransacked the residence locating the cash and jewelry. The four men joined back up and quickly left the property in the pickup truck.

The Weibels went back into their home and immediately found that their valuables had been stolen in the short time they were outside with the men.  They said they immediately called police but officers found no pickup in the area.

Manteca Police said the couple were sketchy on descriptions of the men, but believed them to be of Hispanic and white ancestries.  They did not produce any identification cards to the couple and only verbally told them that they worked for the city.  

Police department spokesman Rex Osborn urged residents to ask for photo identification badges from anyone claiming to be to be representing a government agency before allowing them onto their property.

“If anyone questions the validity of an employee, they can contact the agency they allegedly represent and verify they are employees, and most can even tell you who is currently in your neighborhood working on city issues,” Osborn said.

A similar scam is reported to have happened in Elk Grove.

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered for information on the subjects by the South County Crime Stoppers.  Call (209) 823-4636 with valid information and the name of the caller can remain anonymous.