Thieves posing as buyers prey on homeowners

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 11:58 p.m.

If you're trying to sell your home, be wary of thieves posing as potential buyers.

In Ocala, homeowners selling their homes have reported being visited by a man and a woman who ask to see the residence, but then steal from the homeowner when the owner is distracted, Marion County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Susan Livoti said.

Some homeowners discovered they had credit cards and bank cards stolen when they were notified about an unusually large transaction. The most recent cases added up to almost $4,500 in illegal purchases.

Sgt. Keith Kameg with the Gainesville Police Department said they have had no reports of similar cases in Gainesville. Livoti said her office is not sure where the suspects are from. It could be Central Florida because gift cards that were bought in the Ocala area were redeemed in Orlando.

Protest disrupted

An anti-war protest to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq ended Tuesday evening with Alachua County sheriff's deputies filing sworn complaints against two protesters and also against a man who witnesses said knocked over demonstrators' signs.

Three sworn complaints for a misdemeanor battery charge will be forwarded to the State Attorney's Office regarding the incident at Archer Road and 34th Street between 6 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Keith Faulk.

Problems started when a man approached the demonstration, held by the Veterans for Peace, and allegedly knocked down signs, deputies reported. He then got into a heated argument with two of the protesters. Faulk said there were conflicting statements about what happened once the argument ensued. However, officers reported there was "pushing and shoving" among the three.

Church vandal

Deputies in Bradford and Union counties are investigating a handful of cases in which churches were vandalized at the beginning of the month.

Glass in doors and windows were broken at Evergreen Baptist Church off County Road 125 west of Lawtey, said Bradford County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Burnette. An upside-down cross and a five-pointed star also were spray painted on the building's doors. A few churches in Union County also reported similar damage during the same time frame, he said.

Fowl attack

They must have been some chickens.

The Bradford County Sheriff's Office arrested a Lake Butler man this month after he allegedly attacked another man he claimed had stolen his chickens, deputies reported.

John Stafford, 37, was charged with home invasion robbery, theft and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after deputies said he stabbed the other man in the arm.

Stafford went to a home in southwest Bradford County and forced his way into the front door, believing the man at the residence had taken the birds, said Sheriff's Office Lt. Ron Davis. Once inside, he threatened to kill someone if they didn't find his chickens.

Stafford was armed with a large hunting knife, Davis said. The victim was able to get away and phone for help.

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