An apparent criminal gang has burgled at least three short-term vacation rental (STVR) houses in La Jolla in recent months using a sinister ruse. The burglars posed as short-term vacation renters to secure the houses. Then they posed as movers to ransack the houses during the duration of their stays.
“They just walked in and out of the house in broad daylight with our stove, washer, dryer, our beds and all the other furniture we just had the rental company purchase,” said the latest victim, the owner of an STVR on Calumet Street in Bird Rock, who asked that his name not be published. “It was all brand new.”
Video from a neighbor’s security footage showed the thieves — two males — loading up a large white truck, two white pickup trucks and one pickup truck on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8.
“I’ve been in business 10 years and this has never happened before,” said Michelle Aarons, owner of La Jolla Vacation Rentals, which rented the house to the thieves on behalf of the owner. Stolen identities were used, Aarons said, “and when you have full identity theft, where everything matches — the license, the passport the credit cards — there’s not a lot you can do.”
According to Aarons, at least two other vacation-rental companies in town have been similarly hit, most recently a week before the Calumet Street burglary.
“They’re working with a detective, but the woman who contacted me said one of the men was the same one we caught on the video footage,” Aarons said.
In June 2017, owners of a Mission Hills vacation rental reportedly found it ransacked to the tune of $30,000 by burglars using a similar modus operandi. That same month, a Hillcrest vacation rental home was also hit, though it’s not clear whether the burglars used stolen identities. (The vacation rental company in both cases, according to news reports, was VRBO.)
San Diego Police Department Northern Division spokesperson Larry Hesselgesser told the Light that, “at this time, we do not have enough evidence to link any of these (crimes) as a series.” However, he also added that the Mission Hills and Hillcrest cases are not in his department’s jurisdiction.
The Calumet Street victim said he and his family intend to renovate the house in September and move in after the work is done. Until then, they figured they would use it to generate some income. Instead, they are out about $10,000.
Aarons said the crime forced La Jolla Vacation Rentals to adopt a new policy. “We now meet every single guest when they check in,” she said.