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DELHI TWP., Ohio - A couple pretending to want to buy a house stole valuables at open houses in more than a dozen Greater Cincinnati communities - from Delhi to Hyde Park and Fort Mitchell to Fairfield, police said Thursday.
The pair posed as “Ben” and “Katie” and brought their 1-year-old child along to help fool realtors and real estate agents, Delhi Lt. Joe Macaluso told WCPO.
Police estimate they stole at least $50,000 worth of jewelry and other valuables. Most of it was melted down and sold to support their heroin habit, Macaluso said.
Joshua Petroze, 33, and Kristin Manning, 28, both from Villa Hills, Ky., were arrested on Dec. 20.
"I think the words that she used to me were they were looking to break into as many houses as they could without 'officially' breaking into any houses," Macaluso said.
Delhi police started investigating in November after getting reports of missing jewelry after open houses on Cedarpark Drive and Stonebridge Drive, Macaluso said.
Detectives said the couple pulled the same scam in Blue Ash, Montgomery, Hyde Park, Miami Twp. (Clermont County), Fairfield Twp. (Butler County), Anderson Twp., Symmes Twp., and Loveland in Ohio, as well as Ft. Wright, Ft. Mitchell, Edgewood and Lexington in Kentucky.
"The husband would go down into the basement and ask the realtor to come down and show him the heating and air conditioning and the female would stay [upstairs] with the young child,” Macaluso said, “or the female would become sick to her stomach and need to go use the restroom while the husband toured the house with the realtor.
“There was some reason they would separate themselves to get access for one or the other to go steal items."
No realtors or real estate agents were involved in the scam, Macaluso said.
“Not in any way, shape or form. There were multiple realtors (in these cases). They (the suspects) just used them to get into the homes," Macaluso said.
"When you have a child with you, you're not thinking that you're being scammed, and that's exactly what it was."
The same thing probably happens to other homeowners and some never know it, realtor Tess Filimonov said.
"When I sit down with a seller and we're getting ready to list their home, I just remind them that their home is a product on the market now. It's going to be open to the public both virtually and physically and they need to make some changes. They need to put their precious little things away,” she said.
“Even one little item can be pocketed, but it could be grandma's diamond ring."
Macaluso said only a few of the stolen valuables can be returned.
"We were able to recover some of the items. We believe they were from Northern Kentucky offenses, not the Ohio offenses, but that's not been confirmed. But the rest of the stuff sadly has been melted."
Delhi police ask any realtor who showed a home to “Ben” and “Katie” to call them at 513-922-0060. Homeowners who had their home recently shown and had a theft should also call Delhi police.
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