A man posing as a prospective home-buyer and a woman claiming to be his mother were arrested today after they allegedly made the rounds at open houses throughout the Bay Area, stealing purses and wallets, police said today.
Paul McClung, 30, and Carol Ann Chapman, 59, were arrested out-of-state while driving a Hummer they rented, said Berkeley police Lt. Wes Hester.
The car's OnStar vehicle tracking system led police to the pair. The credit card they used to rent the car was stolen. The credit card company called the owners of the credit card and asked if they had rented a Hummer. When they replied "no", the police were contacted and one call to OnStar is all it took to locate the pair.
Since at least April, McClung and Chapman, who had claimed to be his mother, have shown up in a Jaguar in upscale parts of Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, Newark, Piedmont, Kensington and San Francisco, police said.
The two visit open houses and realty offices, saying they are willing to buy homes for cash. While the woman distracts the real-estate agent with conversation, McClung steals wallets and purses, which they used to commit more fraud, according to the police.
At a recent open-house in Oakland, McClung stole a badge belonging to a former Santa Barbara police officer, police said. On June 10, he appeared at a Kensington real-estate office with the badge on his belt, claimed to be an officer moving to the area from San Diego and asked for a listing of all open houses, police said. During the visit, he allegedly stole a wallet.
McClung was last seen in Berkeley as recently as June 16 and 17, police said.
"They said a number of different things to gain entry and to gain their confidence, which is typical of people who do fraud," Hester said. Real-estate agents or homeowners thought they were legitimate because they were very convincing, police said.
McClung was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in a 2004 vandalism case in Pleasanton and for probation violations. Both were also booked on numerous other warrants for crimes including fraud and petty theft, Hester said.
It is extremely rare for something like this to happen during an open house but we always recommend that you secure all valuables and prescription drugs when your home is for sale. The real estate community have been on to this couple for a few weeks now. We have all been alerted to their descriptions and M.O. That may be why they left the area to loot in virgin territory.