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Fake Fire Inspector Hits Maryland, DC, and Virginia

Uses cover to Steal from Businesses (With Video)

Article by Surae Chinn, WUSA9.com, courtesy of Statter911.com

The surveillance video is clear and in color. Police say it’s of a crook claiming to be a fire or building inspector who gets open access inside businesses.  (See Video on Right)

Police are hoping to quickly close this case that has turned at least 6 businesses in the region into victims.

This case is troubling to authorities because they say the imposter is so convincing.   He’s seen carrying a flashlight and a belt pouch as if he belongs there and it’s all caught on tape.

The alleged imposter is seen wearing a blue polo shirt and talking to store owner Sophad Or.  9NEWS NOW caught up with the store owner of One Plus Convenience off Norfolk Ave. in Bethesda.

He says, ”Didn’t know he use trick like that and later on he wanted to see inside. I said okay. He said it’s dark I need a flashlight and I said okay. I got the flashlight and he tried to take wallet from coworker.”

The owner and his employee never suspected they were taken until hours later.

Sophad’s wife Min says she’s upset by the crime. She says, ”We never thought it would happen to us but it did. ”  Sophad says the crook is so convincing at his fake job he gets full range of the place.

Sophad Or says, “He act like he knew how to do the job… never suspect he’s a bad guy.”  ‘The bad guy’ goes so far as to take the fire extinguisher to top off the heist and make him look even more legitimate.

Sophad Or says, ”He said okay I’ll take extinguisher this is bad and replace it with a new one.  The alleged thief has hit three places in Bethesda including Sophad’s store, a dry cleaner and the latest at a doctor’s office. He’s also hit three other businesses in Fairfax and DC.

Police want to catch this guy before the crimes escalate.

Corporal Dan Friz with Montgomery County Police says, “His intentions were to take property and leave but if he wanted to commit bodily harm he could it’s a concern not only for that but because we built our reputation with the fire department.”

Police are warning other businesses to make sure if someone claims to be an official to ask for their badge.

Most will wear a legitimate uniform with an emblem and their vehicle will also have identification.  Police say the suspect usually steals wallets and laptops.  They say if you have a concern you can always contact the authorities

Special thanks to Dave Statter with Satter911.com for permission in using this article!

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Daniel O January 10, 2010, 10:01 pm

    It is these thieves that pose as policemen and fire officials that make it difficult to earn the public’s trust. It is not the fake fire inspector that will be punished alone, if he is caught, but the actual fire inspectors and fire marshals will feel it through strict laws. In some states, like mine, fire inspectors are required by law to wear a uniform. In my case, I always wear a uniform with shoulder patches, badge and other identifying adornments. I always have picture ID and if someone still doubts my authority, I usually offer a trooper from the local state police or sheriff’s department to verify who I am.

    Business owners and commercial property operators and agents need to ask for ID and if in doubt, attempt to verify. And remember, always be leary if you do not see this person wearing some form of official attire and always look at the badge closely.

  • Archie Koenemund January 11, 2010, 12:02 pm

    While teaching new and refresher courses for Fire Inspectors and other agency inspectors, I included in the training “anyone can get a badge”. Inspectors must have a valid ID and badge in their possesion prior to beginning their inspection duties. We had an incident back in 1998 in NYC where an Supervising Fire Inspector attempted to gain access to the Supreme Court building. He had his badge and inspection forms but, not his FDNY ID and the court officers detained him, confiscated his badge and notified our office. That inspector never went without his ID again. Remember, anyone can get a badge, it’s the valid ID that counts!

  • walfredo velasco lacsam January 12, 2010, 10:27 am

    There also have same incident happened in my location, Philippines, to be specific in the south CALABARZON area, what we call them “Fire Extinguisher Inspector” I can’t disclosed the particular establishment because luck of “Material evidence or video clip preserved” but story told were happen and they was trapped & apprehended. but not tried in court it is just for questioning. . . . Get information of 5W’s and 1H – – – -> find out that the persons are either Fire extinguisher agents/supplier, dropped from the roll and disgruntled fireman in their position/assignment as Fire Engine operator, hoseman, nozzleman, lineman or floor watch/telephone operator.

    It is true fire extinguisher equipment is an investment considered expendable property of the business owner.

    How can we stop this kind of people posing as true inspector just to pick-up and grab fire extinguisher.

    Suggested course of action by the owner:
    1. Ask for Mission Oder duly signed by the City/Mun. Fire Marshal
    2. Check details information, such as: Rank, Name, date/time, duration period, and establishment address.
    3. Ask for Valid ID’s, check expiry date, name/serial number or badge number, and
    4. Check the signatories, call the Fire Department concerned if that persons is the right persons mentioned in a Mission Order. indicate sequence numerical.
    5. Right away if – – – – found “FAKE INSPECTOR” ask what are their purpose, if they get fire extinguisher, its the the time to call a cops and file administrative/criminal complaint.

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