OAKLAND - A man posing as a PG&E worker distracted two elderly residents in their Crocker Highlands backyard while an accomplice burglarized the home of more than $5,000 in cash and jewelry, police said Wednesday.

The burglary happened about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the 1200 block of Sunnyhills Road. Police said a man claiming to be a Pacific Gas & Electric worker came to the house and told the residents, a 90-year-old man and an 80-year-old man, that he needed to inspect an utility easement behind the house.

The residents did not question the request, they told police, because they had recently received a letter about such inspections. It was not clear Wednesday if the letter was a fake. A utility spokeswoman said PG&E is looking into the matter but has not seen such a letter.

The letter did not come from the city's public works department, a spokeswoman said.

"We wouldn't be issuing any notification unless it was our project," said public works spokeswoman Kristine Shaff.

Police said one resident accompanied the suspect to the utility's easement area, and another man joined them a short while later, also claiming to be a PG&E worker. The two left the easement area about 30 minutes later; when the two residents went back into their home, they discovered the burglary, police said.

The first suspect is described as Hispanic, age 35 to 40, about 5 foot 6, 180 pounds with short dark hair. He was wearing a hard hat, gloves, a dark blue long-sleeved shirt and dark pants.

The second suspect is also Hispanic, age 45 to 50, with a light complexion, about 5 foot 6, 185 pounds with dark brown hair. He was wearing a light blue shirt, light colored pants and a light-colored hat. Police said both carried clipboards.

Police are warning people to be on the lookout for similar scammers. Investigators are working with the victims and a witness who lives at the home on suspect sketches. Anyone with information should call the police department's burglary and theft unit at 510-238-3951.

Contact Harry Harris at hharris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/harryharris15. Contact Kristin J. Bender. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender.

tips from PG&E
PG&E offers the following tips to help avoid scams:
  • Customers should always ask to see valid identification before allowing anyone claiming to be a PG&E representative inside their home. PG&E employees always carry their identification and are always willing to show it.
  • If a person claiming to be a PG&E employee has identification and you still feel uncomfortable, call PG&E's customer service line at 1-800-PGE-5000 to verify an appointment and/or PG&E's presence in the community.
  • Customers who have an appointment with PG&E will receive an automated call back within 48 hours before a scheduled visit, or they will receive a personal call from a PG&E gas service representative before a scheduled visit.
    Customers with concerns about the legitimacy of a call they receive about a past due bill, a service request or a request for personal information are encouraged to call PG&E at 1-800-PGE-5000.