By Edwin Folven, 2/23/2012
Olympic Detectives Seek Additional Victims
Three women, including a mother and daughter, were arrested on Feb. 16 for burglarizing apartments in the Olympic area. Police found a large amount of jewelry and other items in their vehicle that investigators believe was stolen from other victims.
The women are described as “distraction thieves” because they use a ruse to distract the residents while another member of their group enters the apartment and commits the burglary. Both incidents occured between 9 and 11 a.m. last Thursday at residences in the 200 block of S. Kenmore Avenue and the 200 block of S. 3rd Avenue. Det. A. Perez, with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Division, said it was a lucky break that police were able to make an arrest.
“Both incidents were reported to police and we notified patrol officers about the vehicle description,” Perez said. “About fifteen minutes later, they were pulled over near Crenshaw and Olympic and we found items belonging to the victims in their car.”
Perez said similar distraction burglaries have been occurring for years throughout the Wilshire and Olympic areas, and many other parts of the city. A majority of the time, the victims are elderly, and are specifically chosen because of their vulnerability. The victims in the burglaries last week were women who were 83 and 92 years old. In both cases, two of the suspects posed as plumbers and told the victims that they had been sent by the property owner to check for damaged pipes. Once the victim was distracted, the third suspect entered the apartment and stole small items that could be easily carried out.
Perez said people should always question whether a stranger has come to their residence for a legitimate reason, and if the stranger is a building trades worker, the resident should ask for identification and a phone number for the employer for verification. He added that people should never leave their doors or windows open while they escort the strangers outside or to other parts of the residence.
“If someone came to my door saying they wanted to check on the pipes, I would ask a lot of questions,” Perez said. “The victims said they sounded very believable, but these people commit these crimes for a living.”
The suspects were identified as a Debbie Riste, 44, her daughter, Victoria Riste, 22, and Theresa Mouto, 44. All three have been charged with burglary and are awaiting an arraignment that is scheduled in mid-March, Perez said. They were driving a grey, 1996 Honda sedan.
Authorities are now working with investigators in surrounding jurisdictions — including the LAPD’s Wilshire, Hollywood and Rampart Divisions — to determine if the trio can be linked to other burglaries. Authorities believe the additional items found in their car belong to other victims, and are asking anyone who could identify the property, or who may have been a victim but did not report the crime, to come forward. In addition to jewelry and watches, police found clothing, cash and a collection of silver coins in the vehicle.
“We want people to call us if they recognize these people and may have been victims,” Perez said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Perez or Det. McBride, with the Olympic Division, at (213)382-9370.