'Divide-and-conquer' tactic used to steal from home sellers

'Divide-and-conquer' tactic used to steal from home sellers

KALAMA, Wash. - A homeowner and police are sounding the alarm about some bold thieves who've struck twice here.

The crooks are committing their crimes while they're invited guests in people's homes by posing as interested buyers.

The "For Sale" sign outside Dan Mahitka's home created the opportunity for the crime. The crooks told him they were looking to buy a home in Kalama and wanted to look at his.

As soon as Mahitka opened the door to the man and woman, they split up. The man headed to Mahitka's master bathroom and bedroom.

"He was in here, into that closet. He was supposedly taking pictures," Mahitka said.

Meanwhile, the woman wanted to see the view. While out on the back deck with the woman, Mahitka said he felt uncomfortable while the man was going through the house unsupervised.

Then the couple wanted to see his detached garage.

"As soon as we got to the garage, she said, 'Hey, do you mind if I go back inside to the bathroom?'"

Mahitka said that's when he believes some prescription painkillers were stolen. It wasn't until the couple suddenly left that he looked around and realized his medicine was gone, and the couple must have been searching for more things to steal.
"I have a collection of comic books, old ones, and he grabbed the box and flipped them – he was looking for things, I realize it today," Mahitka said.

That same day Kalama police say the couple did the same thing at another house. It's also for sale by owner, and the couple used the same divide-and-conquer tactic to distract the owner and steal jewelry and money.

It's the second time Mahitka has had his home ripped off. He now sleeps with a loaded shotgun by his bed.

Police don't have a lot to go on. The couple is middle-aged, Hispanic and driving a silver Chevy truck with Washington license plates.