Deputies: Homes burglarized as alleged landscaping employee lures residents outside

Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County deputies say two homes have been burglarized after residents were approached by a man who identified himself as a landscaper.

The incidents took place in West Ashley and James Island, according to Charleston County Sheriff's Lt. Rita Zelinsky.

In both cases, a man who identified himself as a landscaper knocked on the door of the home and took the victims to the back yard, she said.

Eighty-five year old Thomas Swinton and his 83-year old wife Ethel are two of the victims.

Swinton says the phony landscaper knocked on his door Tuesday afternoon and said he was with a company called Green Thumb.

"He said I need to talk to you and the wife about the tree cutting in the back we are doing tomorrow," Swinton said.

The man told Swinton he is working in a neighbor's yard and asked permission to put a post with wire in Swinton's yard because he would be cutting branches in the other yard.

After talking to the man in the backyard, the supposed tree trimmer suddenly had to leave.

"He got a phone call. He said one of my men got hurt, fell off a ladder," Swinton said.

About a half hour later the Swintons decided to sit on their front porch.

"At that time, I said to her Ethel, do you have the little pistol that we keep on the porch? She said no, it's in the drawer," Swinton recalled.

The couple went inside the house to look for the gun.

"I go back in the house and look in the drawer, no gun was there," Swinton said.

It turns out two guns and cash were taken from the house.

The sheriff's office believes an accomplice went inside the house through the back door and stole the items.

We elderly, we just got to be alert, don't let no one in your house," Swinton said. "Thank God we didn't get hurt."

In the James Island incident, the victim reported several pieces of jewelry were missing and that items in her bedroom appeared to have been moved.

In both cases, the man claims he works for the "Green Thumb" tree company and speaks with an accent. In one case, he had a radio with him and the victim heard a person speaking in a different language; when the victim asked what language it was, the man said it was Romanian.

The man appeared to be between 35 and 45 years old and wore a blue hat and white collared shirt, report states.

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