Officials warn residents of phony worker scams

December 5, 2011 3:34:31 PM PST
The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office is looking for two different men who both posed as fire marshals to get into people's homes. A third man posed as a construction worker and conned his way into a home in League City, but that encounter turned violent.

The victim in the third case is expected to sit down with a sketch artist on Tuesday in an effort to help create a likeness that might help catch the person responsible.

According to police, a man posing as a utility worker knocked on the door of a home on Carrera Court on Saturday and told the homeowner he needed to come inside to check the water pressure. Investigators say once inside, the homeowner became suspicious of the man and asked him to leave. Detectives say the two struggled and the man shot the homeowner and fled.

"At this point we don't have any reason to believe he targeted them," said League City spokesperson Kristi Wyatt. "(There's) no evidence of that."

The homeowner was taken by medical helicopter to the hospital. He was treated and released. Neighbors say he is the type of guy who is very trusting.

"That's what made it so terrible," said neighbor Kristi Wyatt. "Someone who is just a good, genuinely nice person."

The suspect in the League City case is described only as a man in his 20's, slender build, wearing a blue hat, utility belt and jacket.

Impersonators are targeting other trusting individuals as well. The Harris County Fire Marshal's Office is looking for two suspects who have pretended to be a fire marshal in two separate incidents, which is a third degree felony.

The first incident happened on November 8, when a man impersonating a fire marshal went to the home of a woman on Swinbrook near Aldine Mail Route. The victim described him as a Hispanic male with average build, 5'9" to 5'11" tall, age 30 to 40. He did not rob the woman, just pretended to inspect her home and left when she became suspicious.

The second incident was on November 30 at about 3:45 pm, in the 9700 block of the Crosby Freeway in Crosby. This time a home was burglarized by a man the victim described as a black male 5'7" to 5'11", age 40 to 50. He was clean-cut, wearing a khaki shirt with a fake fire marshal logo, displayed a fake badge and he was driving a red Chevrolet truck with dual rear wheels and fire marshal lettering.

The suspect in that case said he was checking homes with gas cans stored near ignition sources. He stole cash from the victim.

The fire marshal's office will not show up unannounced for random inspections at homes and they say it is easy to verify who they are.

"All of our employees will have some type of official identification that will say police on it and have the officer's information on it," said Lt. Dean Hensley with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office. "They can ask to see the person's identification. If they feel something's not right, they can always call 911 and say there's somebody at my house that says they're a fire marshal and I'm not sure if they are or not. They're flashing an ID at me that doesn't look official."

Officials say if you feel like the person isn't a fire marshal, he or she probably isn't. They add that while fire marshals do perform inspections at day care and other home businesses, they do not inspect private homes.

"We are not going to show up unexpected unless we are driving by and see something that would constitute an emergency," explained Asst. Chief Laurie Christensen with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office.

Anyone with information can call the Fire Marshal's Office at 281-436-8000. Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information.

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