Police: Suspects using child in robbery scam on elderly victims

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Tampa police expanded their investigation into a man and woman suspected of using their child as part of a scam to rip off elderly victims.

The thieves first struck on Halloween, when they acted like they were trick-or-treating with their son, who is roughly 6 years old, and convinced an older man to let them into his home, claiming they'd met before and had done work on the house.

A day later, the same couple told a 74-year-old woman on West Platt Street they had worked on her roof several years ago and wanted to say hi to the 80-year-old husband.

They were convincing, so she let them in.

"[The woman] went over to my husband, kissed him on the cheek and said, 'how are you doing?'" said the victim, who asked to not be identified.

The man and his son eventually said they needed to use the bathroom. After several minutes, which included the woman trying to act as a distraction, the victims got suspicious.

"When he was at the end of the dresser, I saw he had a handful of jewelry. My gold chain was hanging out of his hand and he shoved it in his pocket," she said, adding she believes the boy swiped her wallet and brought it into the bathroom, where she later found it. "You work so hard and then you got people like that just rob people, teaching their kid to rob people." 

When the female victim confronted the man, he and his family took off. A surveillance camera across the street recorded their vehicle speeding out of the driveway.

Tampa police said this same family has now struck a third time in this same South Tampa neighborhood.

Detectives also believe this could be a group of traveling thieves because there have been reports of similar crimes in Pinellas County.

One report led investigators to Clearwater.

"That led us to an empty hotel room where we found some jewelry. Now we're trying to see if that's some of the jewelry that was stolen from some of the people here in Tampa," said Steve Hegarty, a Tampa Police spokesperson. "[We're] not sure exactly where they're from or where they're headed."

The victims want to see the adults who preyed on them arrested before they strike again.

"Your only job is stealing from people and what are you trying to teach your son? To be a robber. It's just disgusting. I'm just overwhelmed," the victim said, adding the ordeal keeps her up at night. "If I wake up, that's all I think about, think about what I should have done, what I should have said."

The suspects are described as a Hispanic man and woman, and a child who could be approximately 6 years old. They are believed to be driving a black, four-door Chrysler.