Police warn of thieves posing as workers to lure homeowners outside

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Police and some unsuspecting homeowners are sending out a warning about strange men luring residents outside their homes so that somebody else can go inside and steal valuables.

Bill Sudkamp, an 86-year-old Marine veteran of the Korean War, says he fell victim to the scheme on Friday. Sudkamp says he was sitting out in his driveway in the 8800 block of Ridgehill Drive when a Hispanic man he didn’t know approached him.

“And the guy came walking up the driveway and wanted to talk to me about trimming my trees,” Sudkamp said.

Sudkamp says he spent about a half hour walking around his yard with the man, pointing out where his property lines are. All the while, Sudkamp says the man was speaking Spanish to someone else on his cell phone. Sudkamp says he never got the man’s name or the company he works for, and he didn’t end up agreeing to any tree trimming service.

Then, when he went inside, Sudkamp says it was obvious somebody had been in his house while he was outside.

“All the papers were out on the dresser, all the drawers were pulled open and you could tell stuff was gone through,” Sudkamp said.

Sudkamp discovered a gold watch and other valuable jewelry had been stolen from his home. He now believes the man he met had been talking on the phone with a partner who was searching through the house.

Sudkamp is one of at least four homeowners who’ve called police about suspicious individuals running the same kind of scheme in the last few days.

A woman in the 9100 block of North Washington Boulevard told police a black man in his 60s with a scruffy beard knocked on her door Sunday around 5 p.m. and asked to speak to her outside. She said the man claimed to be with a tree trimming service and wanted her to point out where her property lines were. After spending some time outside with the man, she went inside to find her nightstand and dresser drawers open. Her wedding band and engagement ring, along with other valuable jewelry, were gone.

In Johnson County, a woman in the 3900 block of East County Road 700 North called the sheriff’s department about a white man in a green vest that had come to her door. She said the man claimed to be putting in utility poles and needed the woman to point out where her property lines are. After several minutes outside, the woman said she grew suspicious and quickly went back to the house, where she encountered two more white males. Then when she asked what company they work for, she said they would not tell her. She said the men told her they would leave a business card in the mailbox, but she says they never did. It is not believed anyone got into the house before the woman went back inside.

Monday morning, a woman in the 900 block of Orchard Lane called Greenwood police to report an unsolicited white in his late 20s acting aggressive toward her at her front door. The 85-year old woman told police the man mentioned doing tree trimming services and wanted the woman to come outside. According to a police report, the woman told the man she uses a walker and couldn’t walk that far. When she tried to close the door, she says the man stopped the door with his hand. She eventually forced the door closed and locked it.

Each report to police involves a black car or black van, but suspect descriptions vary from case to case. Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Randy Werden says it’s impossible to say if the suspects are part of the same group, or simply using the same technique to trick homeowners to come outside. He wants all homeowners to be wary of unsolicited services offered at the doorstep.

“Everybody out there is not out there to help you,” Werden said. “There are some evil people out there willing to make you a victim as well.”

Werden says homeowners should be skeptical any time a worker doesn’t have proper identification or refuses to say what company they work for.

“Anything that sends up a red flag themselves, get on the phone and call somebody, preferably the police,” Werden said.

Werden also says this is the time of year when thieves and scammers look for opportunities to prey on homeowners with tree trimming and roofing scams. And, unfortunately, he says they often target the elderly.

“If you want money and you want nice things, then do what everybody else does, go out and get a job and work for it,” Werden said. “Don’t prey on the people that have already achieved those things.”

Bill Sudkamp says he’s angry that he got tricked by some of those scammers. But he says it won’t happen again.

“I think I just wouldn’t say anything, I would knock them flat,” Sudkamp said.

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