CLEARWATER BEACH — The would-be home buyers who showed up at Michael McClain's house Tuesday afternoon turned out to be a trio of jewelry-stealing tricksters.
Their game was slick. Their deceit, apparently well thought out.
They knocked unannounced, but covered their arrival with something or another about not being able to get in touch with McClain's real estate agent.
They said they were from Hoboken, N.J., and pulled up in a new, gold Cadillac SUV.
The vehicle turned out to be just another layer of their elaborate scheme to launch a soft-pedaled home invasion.
They seemed polite, and quite interested in the 59-year-old's house, which had a "For Sale" sign out front.
McClain, who says he is usually a hawk for suspicious activity, said he should have known better.
"It's not something I do, never have," he said of letting the strangers in.
But they seemed up-and-up. So he gave them a tour.
"They were very polished and slick in their responses," he said.
He recalled them even mentioning their relatives were shopping at a nearby Publix, and after a five-minute walkaround, were eager to bring them by.
However, Clearwater police said when one of the two who showed up at the door peeled away to talk on his cell phone, he was really phoning a third person to sneak into the now-unlocked residence.
According to police, the man claimed to be "telling his mother about the home" in an undetermined "foreign language."
The unidentified third operator took family jewelry, which was left out because McClain and his wife had just returned from a trip.
McClain said not long after the men left — presumably to bring back relatives — he noticed the jewelry, including some very sentimental items, was missing.
The kind of guy who has lived most of his life on his toes, McClain said he felt violated, and embarrassed that he had fallen victim to such a scheme.
But he said he wanted to speak out to warn others — especially those more vulnerable than himself — to stay alert.
"I want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," McClain said.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Dominick Tao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-2951.