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Traveling con artists suspected in funeral home incident

ST. PETERSBURG — The two men walked into David Gross Funeral Home during a memorial service claiming to be Verizon employees, and demanding to see billing records and other documents.

His alarm bells went off, said David Gross, owner of the funeral home at 6366 Central Ave., so he asked for identification. The men couldn't provide any and left.

But nine days later, one of them returned. This time, with a woman claiming to be a supervisor. She flashed an ID, but yanked it away when Gross tried to get a closer look. The man began yelling "assault," and the two left after Gross said he was calling police.

St. Petersburg police say the two men and the woman may be traveling con artists who prey on unsuspecting residents and business owners. Police say a few members of a group try to create a diversion, while others steal money or other valuables.

"There's probably more people out there that don't recognize what's going on or dismiss it," said police spokesman Bill Proffitt. "It's hard for us to get a good idea of how prolific they are."

Police are asking anyone who has experienced a similar incident or theft to call authorities.

Police say a similar incident happened Feb. 25, when a man approached a homeowner in the western section of the city. He told the man, who was working in his garage, that he was there to survey the property. The man said both the husband and his wife had to stand in the back yard as he surveyed the land.

As the couple stood outside, police say an accomplice went through the house and stole money. Last year, a similar con involved people claiming to be checking water meters. As families stood outside with one of the crooks, an accomplice went through their homes.

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

To help

Anyone with information can call police at (727) 893-7780.

Traveling con artists suspected in funeral home incident 03/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 2:23am]
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