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Apartment Seekers Steal From Landlord While She Shows Rental Unit: Police

By Mina Bloom | August 4, 2017 6:09pm | Updated on August 7, 2017 9:31am
 A neighbor's surveillance camera captured the men approaching the building and fleeing the scene once they had stolen her belongings.
A neighbor's surveillance camera captured the men approaching the building and fleeing the scene once they had stolen her belongings.
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Two men posing as would-be renters stole gold jewelry from a 73-year-old woman's apartment on Thursday afternoon, according to police and the woman's family.

Just before 1:30 p.m., Martha Espinoza, 73, was in her apartment in the 1000 block of North Wood Street when a man knocked on her door and asked to see the upstairs apartment, referring to the for-rent sign on the building, according to police and Crystal Espinoza, the woman's daughter-in-law.

The man, who was captured in surveillance video camera, then made a phone call and was joined by a second man, who appears to be of similar age.

When Martha Espinoza opened the door to let the first man in, the man told her that the second man was his brother and he was the one who wanted to see the apartment. The man said he was going to wait downstairs on a porch for his wife during the apartment showing, according to Crystal Espinoza.

Martha Espinoza complied and took the second man upstairs to see the apartment. Once inside, the second man kept asking her obvious questions, which made her uneasy, according to her daughter-in-law.

"He kept asking, 'What's this over here? Can you open this door?' He was trying to keep her there," Crystal Espinoza said.

Suspicious, she went back downstairs to her apartment to find the other man inside, police said. He had a pillow case full of her gold jewelry and $500 in cash, Crystal Espinoza said. The men then ran out of the apartment  — one left out the front, the other out the back — with the stolen belongings and eventually drove off in a gray SUV.

It was a traumatic experience for Martha Espinoza, who has owned the building for 30 years. 

"She's shaken up because she's just thinking of all the stuff that could've happened to her," Crystal Espinoza said. "She feels like they're going to come back. She's just scared to stay home alone."

A neighbor's surveillance camera captured the men, who are both believed to be between 25 and 30 years old, approaching the building. The videos also show the men fleeing the scene and Martha Espinoza going outside after them with her small dog. At one point, one of the men can be scene walking away from the building, jogging, then walking back before getting into a car and driving off.

Since Crystal Espinoza posted the videos to Facebook, they have been shared more than 500,000 times.

She said she gave the footage to police.

As of Friday afternoon, no one was in custody for the crime, police said.

Surveillance video footage below: