Crooks take advantage of San Bruno fire victims

September 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
As they salvage what little is left from the rubble of the San Bruno pipeline explosion, crooks are looking for loopholes to take whatever they can.

There are some despicable accounts of people taking advantage of this tragedy. Even with police are posted around the neighborhood, looters have still found a way to get in and steal from people's homes or steal the services meant for the victims.

The rec center in San Bruno is full of services fire victims need, but at least four people saw this place as an opportunity. Investigators say they walked up to the DMV table and asked for drivers licenses, using addresses of homes that burned to the ground.

"Saying they'd never had a driver's license before, but I rent that house that burned down," said DMV supervising investigator Calvin Woo.

They then took their new ID's to various agencies, such as PG&E, looking for handouts.

"Essentially you could walk out with $1,500 in free gift cards and a free cell phone. And they did," said Woo.

The DMV figured out they were lying and police arrested all four people. It's too much for San Bruno residents to bear.

"They need to be locked up for a long time. They need some serious, serious punishment. That is just the lowest of low," said San Bruno fire victim Jennifer Vargas.

Inside the neighborhood, police have arrested one person for looting and caught two would-be looters impersonating a firefighter and a utility worker.

But residents are still finding some valuables that managed to escape the fire and the thieves. Thursday, fire crews cut into a safe they found in the rubble and discovered jewelry inside. Residents were given a couple of hours to sort through the debris.

"Yeah I was surprised that my brother's CD's were intact, we were able to find some photos of my mom and aunt who are passed away, which was nice," said evacuee Bob Pellegrini.

The four arrested in the rec center scam: Niesha Taylor and Deonte Bennett from San Francisco, and Sonya Smith and Lisa Justin from San Bruno. All four are in jail and face four felony charges each.


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