Open Houses Leave Homeowners Open to Theft

Fake father-and-son team busted for stealing from houses for sale

By Chris Gordon and Ashley E. Brown
|  Tuesday, Oct 6, 2009  |  Updated 11:28 AM EDT
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Open Houses Leave Homeowners Open to Theft

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Open house signs left area homeowners open to theft this summer. Two arrests have been made.

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Open Houses Leave Homeowners Open to Theft

Police busted two men for allegedly posing as a father-and-son team of potential homebuyers. They're accused of stealing $10,000 worth of cash and jewelry from open houses for sale in Maryland and Virginia.
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Two Maryland men took "open house" signs as an open invitation to rip off homeowners throughout the Washington region.

 
Baltimore police arrested 51-year-old John Palmer Jr., of Glen Burnie, and 22-year-old Samuel Goldstein, of Dundalk, on Sunday. They're facing grand larceny charges for stealing $10,000 in cash and jewelry from several homes on the market in Alexandria, Fairfax, Baltimore and Montgomery County.
 
Their M.O. was to pose as a father-and-son team of potential homebuyers, according to police. One would distract a real estate agent while the other would snatch goods from the house.
 
The thefts had been going on since May. Mary Hurlbut, of Weichert Realtors, said she encountered the alleged con artists a couple of weeks before their arrest at an open house in Alexandria.
 
"They had purposely put me in a position where one of them could go upstairs and look for jewelry," said Hurlbut. "[Later] my homeowner found something missing, [and] spent a lot of time looking. The next morning, it was still gone and I said, 'Call the police right away.'"
 
That prompted an alert that was posted on the Virginia Association of Realtors website. A vigilant realtor in McLean noticed something suspect when the guys showed up to an open house last week. He wrote down their license plate number and called police, who said it was fairly easy to track the fake father and son down.
 
Palmer and Goldstein were still in custody Monday night. Police are contacting homeowners in Alexandria in an attempt to return the stolen cash and jewelry.
 
Anyone who thinks their home may have been targeted should call Alexandria police.

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