Two self-described members of the gypsy community posed as water department employees when they robbed an elderly Stoughton woman of more than $1,200 worth of jewelry in her home last month, and authorities believe the suspects committed similar crimes elsewhere in Massachusetts during their brief stay in the Commonwealth, police said Friday.
Speaking during a morning news conference, Stoughton police Chief Donna McNamara identified the suspects as Paul Mitchell, 45, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Stanley Mitchell, 28, also of Florida.
McNamara said Paul Mitchell was captured March 5 in Florida and later brought back to Massachusetts to face charges of breaking and entering in the daytime, larceny over $1,200, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
He had been slated for arraignment Friday, but results of the hearing weren’t immediately available.
Paul Mitchell also faces charges out of Wilmington of entering a dwelling under false pretense and conspiracy stemming from an incident there, McNamara said, adding that there are “numerous other ongoing investigations in Massachusetts” targeting the men.
She said Stanley Mitchell remains at large with a warrant issued out of Stoughton for charges including assault and battery on a person over 60, breaking and entering in the daytime, larceny over $1,200 and conspiracy to commit a crime.
The Mitchells are related, but it’s not clear precisely how, McNamara said.
She said they flew in to Massachusetts on Jan. 30 and left on Feb. 2, hours after allegedly stealing from the Stoughton woman.
The Mitchells, McNamara said, targeted the vulnerable, including the elderly, a crime that’s “very despicable in my eyes.”
“We released surveillance videos showing a man [later identified as Stanley Mitchell] escaping through the bulkhead of the home and hopping the fence,” Stoughton police said in a statement. “Our department launched a massive investigation that spread from Massachusetts to New York, Virginia, Delaware, and Florida. These two men committed similar offenses in other communities in Massachusetts.”
Detectives spoke to the Mitchells by phone multiple times before Paul Mitchell’s arrest, and the pair identified themselves as members of the gypsy community, according to McNamara.
“The gypsy term was not a label given by law enforcement” but one used by the suspects, McNamara said. The men, McNamara said, are part of “an organized group who commit scams and crimes moving quickly throughout states” along the eastern seaboard.
Asked why the pair allegedly targeted Stoughton, McNamara said investigators aren’t certain.
“I think they look for opportunities and they look for vulnerable people and they take advantage of that,” she said.
McNamara said police keyed in on the Mitchells after Andover detectives told them a woman in their town had reported a similar incident but refused to open her door. The woman took down the suspects’ license plate, which came back to a local rental car service.
Video surveillance from the rental agency showed the Mitchells standing at the counter, the chief said.