POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) — A 19-year old is behind bars accused of stealing from the elderly including a World War II veteran.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office says Eric Vanyo not only stole from his victims — like 93 year old Dan Thomas — but he is accused of committing the crimes while his victims were sleeping.

Dan Thomas is still incredulous that Vanyo allegedly stole the 70-year old wedding ring right off his hand while he slept one night last month.

“While I was asleep in bed,” Thomas said, incredulously.

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Detectives say Vanyo lived in Thomas’ neighborhood and broke in through Thomas’ laundry room door. Thomas said he knew something was wrong when he woke up and looked around his home.

“The two medicine cabinets in the bathroom were open,” Thomas said. “I never leave them open. That door to the washroom was open. I never leave that open.”

BSO says Vanyo burglarized Thomas a few weeks before the August incident and also burglarized another sleeping neighbor.

Thomas’ son, James, is glad his father, a decorated World War II veteran, was not hurt. He wants Vanyo to face a serious punishment.

“I’m just happy they caught the guy,” James Thomas said. “I’d rather have him buried than in jail but as long as he’s in jail permanently, I’ll be happy. As long as he quits bothering other people.”

Thomas got his ring back. He said it’s an ongoing reminder of his late wife. BSO says the pawn shop where Vanyo sold it made Thomas pay to recover it.

For now, Thomas feels safe in his longtime home with a security system in place but he says he doesn’t have the freedom he once did.

“Now I’m home in my house and I’m not free,” Thomas said. “I’m locked in. I’m just like being in jail. It’s a different life now than it was a month ago.”

Jail records show the suspect Vanyo is in the Broward County Jail without bond. The Broward Sheriff’s Office says they are actively investigating whether Vanyo has done this to anyone else.

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Carey Codd

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