MIAMI SHORES (CBSMiami) – Betty Jane Paulson blames herself in part, for becoming a victim of a distraction theft ring at her home in Miami Shores in June.
“We realized the things we did when they came to the door were stupid things, but you don’t even think about it on Sunday morning,” she told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
It started, she says, when a man who police identify as Jim Alvarez knocked on her door with a few accomplices saying they needed to access her backyard to discuss building a wall on the neighbor’s property.
“He touched the screen door which kind of alarmed me a little bit because I didn’t want them in the house. And I said go around to the side and they did.”
While the men chatted politely with Betty and her husband, police say Alvarez’s colleagues in crime were rifling through a bedroom in the home – not realizing their 60-year-old daughter was home. She confronted the men in the home.
“She used some foul language and told them to get out of our house and slammed the door in their face. All of a sudden, within five minutes, all four of them disappeared,” Paulson said.
The men got away with the daughter’s diamond ring.
Police believe Alvarez is part of an organized ring of distraction thieves, and may be connected to several non-violent robberies in Miami Shores and Coral Gables.
In August, the elderly woman in a Gables home was also tricked by the men, and her jewelry was wiped out.
The woman was too afraid to speak on camera but she told Zea the crime has shaken her up, raised her blood pressure and left her without precious family keepsakes.
The thieves got away with sentimental items to her, including her late mother’s watch, her original wedding ring and her 20-year anniversary diamond.
Miami Shores Police Detective Natasha Mckay says surveillance video captured the plate on the getaway van she says Alvarez and his accomplices used.
They tracked him to a Fort Lauderdale apartment and made the arrest Wednesday.
“Most of my victims in the distraction burglaries are all elderly and I feel like I’ve contributed to them,” said Det. McKay.
Though the crime took away Betty’s sense of security, it didn’t affect her sense of humor or her desire to never become someone’s victim again.
“I turned on television and some man is teaching people how to use a cane to protect yourself if anybody bothers you, and when I find out his classes, I think I’d like to attend,” she said, laughing.
Coral Gables and Miami Shores police say this arrest will be critical to busting open this distraction theft ring.
At this point, Alvarez is directly charged with two of the crimes.