LADY LAKE, Fla. - Police said thieves are targeting elderly people in Lake County by posing as contractors and offering to make home repairs they don't really need.
Nicholas Kittelson was arrested, accused of being one member of a group that allegedly stole nearly $19,000 from a woman with dementia.
"Boy, he's a smooth talker, he really is. He must practice," said Dorothy Smith, describing her impression of Kittelson.
The 87-year-old Smith said Kittelson showed up unexpectedly at her home in Lady Lake and told her that her sprinkler system needed repair.
"[He] said my system was old and rusting," said Smith.
According to police, what Smith didn't know at the time is that Kittelson created the problem.
"He had lifted that cover and wired some of the wires together," Smith said,
Kittelson hit Smith up for over $1,700
, but she said she knew something wasn't right.
"I put a stop payment on that check," said Smith.
Kittelson is not a licensed contractor, and police said he never did any work on her sprinkler system.
Police said he is part of a bigger circle of alleged thieves who have been hitting up the elderly in Lake County, particularly in the Villages.
"They show up on the spot, make the people think there's some sort of emergency," said Det
ective Ronald Michaud of the Lady Lake Police Department.
Investigators said the phony contractors then spread the names of their victims to others.
Smith said that is something she realized when another man came to her door after her power went out.
"He said, 'I can fix it for you,' and I said, 'You're not fixing anything,'" Smith said.
According to Smith, the man had turned the power off outside her house.
Smith even helped police catch Kittelson when he came to collect another check.
"[I said in] two hours I'd have another check for him," Smith said. "And then I called police."
Smith was able to give a description of Kittelson and his truck, which helped police arrest him.