Collier County deputies seek man connected to distraction theft suspects

Reporter: Emma Heaton Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office has released a composite sketch of a man sought in connection with distraction theft suspects who are targeting senior citizens for their jewelry.

CCSO says the thieves in recent distraction thefts typically use a ruse to approach senior citizens, usually in grocery store parking lots and remove the victims’ watch or jewelry without them noticing.

“We have more elder community, so people do try to come and take advantage of them. And this is one of the ways in which they do it,” said Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano.

Deputies say the first incident happened on December 15 at noon in the TJ Maxx parking lot on Airport Road. A victim told investigators a man asked if she could put directions into his phone. Then he offered her jewelry, which she declined, but he gave it to her anyway and then left.

Later, the victim was driving home when she realized she was no longer wearing her Rolex watch.

WINK News asked two people in the same parking lot the incident happened how they felt about the situation.

“Just really messed up, like, I don’t know why they would do that,” said Anri Alikaj.

“Really surprising. Like it’s usually a really nice area,” said Lisette.

“Once they begin that specific conversation, that’s the opportunity for them to get distracted,” said WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko.

Kolko said it’s no surprise two more victims were targeted the same day.

An hour and a half later, in the parking lot of Publix on Strand Block, a victim said a female asked him for directions and offered him jewelry, then left.

The victim later realized his 18k rose gold chain and a religious cross were stolen.

At 2 p.m. the same day, a third victim told deputies she finished her shopping at the Publix on Vanderbilt Beach Road when a female asked the victim to pray with her and offered her jewelry. After the suspect left, the victim realized the female tricked her and stole her necklace right off her neck.

What is the main thing you can do to protect yourself? “Situational awareness, know where you are, know what’s going on, know who’s around you,” said Kolko.

CCSO’s safety tips:

  • Walk in groups or pairs
  • Don’t wear jewelry of value on trips to the store or keep it hidden under your clothing
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Look for vehicles or people who may be following you or seem out of place
  • Report unusual activity to law enforcement

If you recognize him or have information about his identity, please contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 252-9300. If you wish to remain anonymous, call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.

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