Men posing as utility workers steal elderly couple's wedding ring

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An elderly couple is reeling after the symbol of their love was stolen by men posing as utility workers.

The past year and a half hasn't been easy for Dick Depugh and his wife. Their home suffered damage during Hurricane Harvey, but the inconvenience didn't ruin their spirit.

"We didn't get it as bad as almost everybody else," Depugh said.

While he's moved on from Harvey, he can't get past his recent loss.

"I'm a little bit depressed," Depugh said.

Depugh's street is under construction. So when a group of men knocked on his door last week, saying they hit a water main and needed to check his pressure, he didn't think twice.

"He lured me into the backyard while another one talked to my wife in the living room, and they just robbed us," Depugh said. "They went through our house."

After the men left, the couple realized items were missing.

"A wedding ring," Depugh said. "A ring that was a graduation ring of my wife's mother."

The graduation ring is from a college in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and is nearly 100 years old.

The wedding ring has diamonds on top and the sides, a symbol Depugh gave to his wife 33 years ago.

Depugh said the men left in a red truck. Eyewitness News checked with police, but so far, no arrests have been made.

"You want to put up bars and electric fences to keep them out," Depugh said.

Houston police say you don't have to go that far to protect yourself from these scammers. If you get a knock from someone you weren't expecting, officers say to look for an ID and employee number.

Then, find a utility bill and call the listed number.

"Call them and verify that this person has in fact been sent for a service call and is an employee of theirs," Houston Police Department Lt. Jack Harvey said.

Officers said these crimes are random, but the elderly are usually victims. Once they're inside your home, officer said thieves look to grab items quickly.

"They do target small items that are valuable, that are easy to hide, and that are not marked with serial numbers," Harvey said. "So, you mentioned jewelry, that's right up their alley."

Officers say the best bet is, if you don't feel comfortable, don't be afraid to close the door.

"If you're suspicious, go with your gut," Harvey said. "Take the steps to verify that they are who they say they are. And don't be afraid to say no if you're uncomfortable or call the police if you're unsafe."

Advice Depugh says he's learned and he's hoping others can learn from his painful experience.

"Be careful who you let in, but I wasn't thinking very clearly," Depugh said.

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