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Beware of phony workmen

Jewelry stolen from senior citizen in La Salle 'ruse burglary'

A man claiming to be a workman checking on power outages entered a 98-year-old La Salle woman’s house, and after he left, most of her jewelry was missing.

“This just makes me sick,” said La Salle police investigator Mike Smudzinski.

He has been investigating the case, which occurred after 1 p.m. Sunday not far from Northwest School, and was seeking information and checking video cameras in the area of the crime.

La Salle police, as well as acquaintances of the family, are warning people not to let people into their homes unless they know them. Julie Mateika said the victim of the crime was her son’s wife’s grandma.

“They’re targeting the old people,” she said. Mateika said the woman whose home was burglarized thought the white vehicle driven by the person who came to the door looked like a family member’s SUV, so she answered the door.

Mateika said she believes a second person entered the home after a man talked his way into the home and distracted the resident.

Police call these tactics “ruse burglaries.”

Smudzinski said the man who came to the door said a utility pole was down in the neighborhood and he needed to check the switches in her house. The woman who was targeted told investigators she heard a sound at the door when she was in another room with the man, and he told her the noise was just the wind.

“This is a woman who goes to church every Sunday and Wednesday and for someone to do this to her is just horrific,” Mateika told the NewsTribune.

For the safety of community residents, Smudzinski said the police department would put out information on these sorts of burglaries and tactics.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or ntlocal@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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