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Cops: Suspect Wanted For String Of Burglaries In Outer Boroughs Poses As Utility Worker

Local Trend Part Of Bigger Problem Hitting Small Businesses Across The U.S.

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –  Police say a man posing as a utility worker is wanted for 18 burglaries in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

The burglaries date back to February, 2012, with the most recent happening on April 29 in Queens, police said.

Detectives said a man approaches people claiming he works for a utility company and when residents get distracted, two or three other men steal items from inside the person’s home.

Victims’ neighbors said they’re keeping all their doors and windows locked and their guards up.

“Usually you hear about it in all these other neighborhoods, you watch the news and can’t believe what’s going on. But when it happened so close to home, it really scared me,” said neighbor Judy Tsevdos. “I kept the kids inside, I have two boys.”

Police say the suspect pictured above is wanted for 18 burglaries in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. (credit: NYPD)

Police say the suspect pictured above is wanted for 18 burglaries in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. (credit: NYPD)

Police released a photo of a suspect who they say is the alleged ringleader of the burglary scheme. They did not release his name or any other information about him or the other suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477) or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.

SAME TYPE OF SCAM TARGETS SMALL BUSINESSES

Business owners across the country are being targeted by the scam. Con artists, posing as power company employees, are trying to steal their money.

On a busy Friday at Washland Laundromat in Plainfield, N.J., owner Annabella Malicia got a call from her power company.  At least, that’s what she thought.

‘They said we are PSE&G. We are calling from PSE&G,” Malicia told CBS 2’s Susan McGinnis.

Malicia said the caller wanted her to pay them thousands of dollars, or they’d shut off her power. She said she had two-three hours to try to get money or else “No gas, no business. No electricity, no business,” she said.

It turns out she was talking to a scam artist.

“We saw this hitting streets about a year and a half ago,” said Michael Kelly, manager of PSE&G Customer Solutions.

Kelly said scammers who once targeted homeowners are now going after small businesses, threatening to cut the power if they don’t pay up.

“Mom and pop-type businesses, delis, restaurants, bars, and laundromats,” Kelly said.

Scam artists told victims to buy a prepaid debit card at a convenience store or drug store, and call them back with the information. The scammer then drains the funds from the card, McGinnis reported.

The con is being reported in states across the nation. Utilities companies are warning customers not to be fooled.

“We would never require a customer to go out and purchase this type of payment method. We would not require them to pay immediately in order to avoid instant termination,” Kelly said.

Malicia didn’t fall for the scam.

“I started thinking something’s not right here,” she said.

She said she hung up before giving away any financial information and contacted her power company.

PSE&G said if you get one of these calls, be sure the caller has specific information, including the account name, number and current balance.

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