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HIALEAH (CBSMiami) — Police are calling on the community to be aware of a group of scammers targeting elderly people by using distraction techniques and “old tricks” to rob their victims of cash and property.
At least four Hialeah residents were victimized on February 11th in three separate incidents.
Their ages range from 83 to 91 years old.
One victim, 91-year-old Antonio Gonzalez, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench he feels “stupid for letting this happen.” His 86-year-old wife Julia said she was upset.
Authorities are looking for three crooks, considered part of a “traveling Gypsy crime group, very common in Florida this time of year and are historically known for committing these types of distraction crimes, as well as violent crimes.”
“They knock on doors and essentially barge into the victim’s home pretending to be old acquaintances,” said Hialeah Police Sgt. Carl Zogby. “Elderly people are among the most vulnerable people in our society. These criminals are cowards. It’s an old trick going door to door like this. We had the homes of three elderly people in a row in two hours this past Saturday.”
Police released surveillance video of a white 2008-2012 Chevy 3500HD 4×4 pickup truck used in all three crimes from this past Saturday in Hialeah and a flyer showing the face of the accused ringleader, Ricky Mitchell.
“In many cases, the female criminal distracts a female victim telling her that you know me and we grew up next door,” said Sgt. Zogby. “A male suspect sneaks inside a home and rummages through it, and steals money and wallets and jewelry. And then they leave and the damage has been done. By hook or crook, they get in to your home. Our advice is not to open your door to strangers. That’s where it starts. They get inside and rob you.”
Mitchell has an extensive and violent criminal background.
“He’s a known criminal and an identified member of a gypsy gang with an extensive criminal record in Illinois and California,” Sgt. Zogby continued. “If found, he will be extradited to California. He should be considered armed and dangerous. He is also known to be very violent, as well, and so we don’t know what he is capable of doing once he gets inside your home. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he could turn violent.”
In the Gonzalez robbery, near West 66th Street and 10th Avenue, the bandits may have pretended to be roofers. While one of them went up on the roof with the 91-year-old homeowner, the other two went inside with the homeowner’s wife and stole $650 in cash. Gonzalez said they also tried to get into his safe but had no luck.
The thieves also stole $20 from a purse at the home of Maria Muniz, near East 44th Street and 8th Lane, and a gold earring from the home of Lilie and Eduardo Cuervo near West 7th Avenue and 36th Street.
Mitchell has a tattoo above his left eye that says “Gypsy” and is considered armed and dangerous.
His two accomplices are described as a tan-skinned, short female in her 30’s, and a tall, heavy-set, white male in his 40’s or 50’s.
Police want to remind the public to not open the door to strangers.
If you see this group, you’re urged to call the authorities or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477).