SJ Police: Scammers Hijack Taxi During Get Away

Three men accused of posing as Santa Clara County Water Company  employees in an attempt to steal from elderly Santa Clara residents may be  connected to similar crimes carried out in San Jose, Deputy District Attorney  Cherie Bourlard said today.
Santa Clara police arrested Tommy John, 41, Barney Mendes, 35, and  Nicky Garcia, 18, also known as 24-year-old David Marino, after an elderly  woman suspected the ruse and called the water company.

The alleged scam was carried out Jan. 12, when John knocked on the  door of an elderly couple's home and said he needed to check pipes in the  backyard, according to the district attorney's office.

The older man took John and Mendes to the backyard, and Garcia  entered the house.

Garcia was not aware that the elderly woman was inside the house,  and told her he needed to check the kitchen sink when she confronted him,  Bourlard said.

Garcia apparently told the woman to bang on the pipes as part of  the ruse.

"In the middle of that she realized, you know what, this is a  hoax," Bourlard said.

The woman decided to call the water company and confronted Mendes,  who motioned to his alleged accomplices before they fled in a pickup truck.

Police responded after a neighbor called 911, but Mendes allegedly  evaded officers by running stop signs and speeding, the district attorney's  office reported.

After briefly losing police, the men exited the truck, Bourlard  said. Garcia allegedly attempted to hijack a taxicab, but police eventually  caught up to and arrested all three suspects.

The men were arrested on residential burglary charges and  attempted theft of $400 or more from an elder, Bourlard said. The residential  burglary charges apply because the law only requires that the men had the  intent of committing a felony before entering and allows accomplices to be  charged.

Bourlard said San Jose police reported 26 or 27 similar water  company ruses about a year and a half ago. One man was prosecuted in  connection with at least one of the crimes about a year ago, and  investigators now believe John, Mendes and Garcia could be connected.

"We feel this new crew might be responsible for more of these  burglaries or even these attempted burglaries," Bourlard said.

Bourlard said she hopes elderly residents know to call 911 if a  stranger appears at the door.

"Hopefully from our outreach presentations our elders are a little  more wise," she said.

John, Mendes and Garcia are scheduled to enter pleas in Santa  Clara County Superior Court on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.

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