On Tuesday, Donavan Osby was indicted after he allegedly impersonated a Department of Energy employee to gain access to a couple’s home in Lubbock. On March 7, Anthony Carter said he received a phone call that the department was investigating gas leaks in his neighborhood. Later that day, a man wearing a hard hat and a reflective vest came to Carter’s home and claimed to be examining a leak in his backyard using an iPad. He then asked to come inside the house to check on the water heater. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, once they were inside the man attacked Carter:
Inside the house Carter said the man used a stun gun on him but he managed to knock it from the man’s hand. The man then drew a revolver, which Carter was also able to knock out of the man’s hand. The revolver’s cylinder detached from the gun when it fell to the floor.
Carter told police a scuffle began between him and the intruder, who managed to force him to the floor and hit him multiple times over the head with a barbell.
The man ran away when Carter’s fiancée called the police, but later called Carter using a spoofed number. He told Carter that “rich white people” had put him up to the attack. Carter was on the phone with the intruder when the police arrived, and they were able to track to the fake number to Osby’s phone. On March 10, the Lubbock Police Department put out an arrest warrant for Osby, and nearly a week later he was arrested in New Mexico. Osby is being charged with burglary of a habitation with intent of aggravated assault—a felony charge that could carry a punishment of five years to life.
Unfortunately, posing as utility workers is not a new tactic for burglars. In 2014, a report by NBC DFW stated that there had been several attempts by burglars to gain access to homes in Oak Cliff by posing as employees from companies such as Atmos Energy and AT&T. In one incident, a man with a clipboard told a woman she would need to leave her home so he could turn off her gas, and she told him to return at a later time when she wouldn’t be at home. She returned to find that her house had been burglarized.
So far this month, there have been reports of similar impersonations and burglary attempts in Baltimore and New Jersey. In Elmwood Park, New Jersey, the would-be victim of a burglar in disguise happened to be the city’s mayor, Robert Colletti. Colletti said he was almost immediately suspicious of the man who rang his doorbell claiming to be with Public Service, an electric and gas company in the area. The man was wearing a hard hat, a mask that covered up to his nose, and claimed that he needed to check Colletti’s furnace.
“I said, ‘You want to get in my house without ID?'” Colletti told ABC 7. “And now my wife is in back of me, and she’s saying, ‘Bob, he’s a fake. There’s no truck outside.'”
After Colletti “stared the suspect down,” he ran away only to be arrested by local police shortly afterward. In addition to asking for ID and checking for a company vehicle, other safeguards against undercover burglars include calling utility companies to confirm that they’ve actually sent somebody to your home. For now, the people of Lubbock can rest a easy: Tiffany Pelt, a spokesperson for the Lubbock Police Department told the Journal that the department believes that this was an isolated incident.