Police: Caregivers, HVAC repairman steal $70,000 in valuables from client homes in Md.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (ABC7) - Two caregivers and an HVAC repairman are accused of pilfering from their clients in Montgomery County, a fitting reminder about the need to vet service workers before you allow them into your home.
All three cases are unrelated, but they do share a number of commonalities, including the sale of stolen items at area pawn shops and jewelers. Such resale provided investigators with ample evidence to secure criminal charges, gaining convictions in two of the cases. The third is still pending.
Marilyn Abamonga Bugas, 52, of Lewis Avenue in Rockville:
On May 24, a man living in a luxury condominium building along the 8100-block of Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase, Md. noticed $2,500 in cash was missing from a filing cabinet. Concerned, the man performed an audit of valuables within his home. His wife's $30,000 sapphire ring, plus 12 other pieces of fine jewelry were also nowhere to be found. The grand total stolen: $41,525.
The man supplied police with a list of caregivers who he'd recently employed to care for his ailing wife. Police ran each name through a pawn database and got a hit against Marilyn Bugas. On May 18 and May 29, Bugas offloaded numerous pieces of jewelry at Famous Pawn located along Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. Officers managed to reclaim much of the jewelry, but not everything.
Bugas was arrested and taken to the Bethesda precinct station. The caregiver confessed to the thievery and revealed the missing $30,000 sapphire ring, plus $1,500 in cash was hidden in her home along Lewis Avenue in Rockville. Her candid claims checked out.
Facing a damning list of incriminating evidence, Bugas pleaded guilty in court last month. A judge sentenced her to 30 days in jail, plus ordered the 52-year-old pay $2,700 in restitution for the unrecovered valuables.
According to court documents, Bugas worked as a "home help aide" for Cheerway Care Agency at the time of her arrest. Owner Sheli Bell told ABC7 by email that Bugas is no longer employed by her company. Bell stated she performs background checks on all new hires, explaining Bugas' came back clean during the hiring process.
Bugas was born in the Philippines. She lives with her husband, mother and sister.
Adrianne Dickens, 27, of Muddy Branch Road in Gaithersburg:
On May 1, 2016, a female resident at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg was passing the afternoon in her apartment when a stranger walked through the front door. The stranger advised she had tried ringing the doorbell and knocking, but did not receive an answer. The stranger introduced herself as "Adrianne" and stated she was caring for the woman's next-door neighbor, Florence. "Adrianne" explained Florence was heading to the building's gym and wanted company. The woman found the request peculiar, but obliged.
After exercising, the woman returned to her unit and discovered two rings and a gold necklace were missing from a jewelry box atop her bedroom dresser. There was also a wad of $450 in cash missing from a wallet. Total amount stolen: $3,400.
The theft victim immediately suspected the mysterious "Adrienne" was responsible for the crime. The victim later learned her neighbor had hired Adrienne as a temporary in-home aide.
Police note the victim had previously provided Florence with a spare key to her unit in case she ever became locked out. That key - labeled with the victim's last name - would have provided "Adrienne" with easy access.
Authorities learned "Adrienne's" full name was Adrienne Dickens, a suspect in a prior theft case. Furthermore, records showed Dickens pawned a handful of items at First Cash Pawn in Germantown. The transaction occurred one day after the theft at Asbury Methodist Village. Police recovered all of the stolen pieces of jewelry.
ABC7 reached Dickens' mother by telephone, but she refused to answer any questions, simply stating: "That's a private affair, thank you for calling."
Dickens pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree burglary. Last week a judge sentenced her to 18 months of supervised probation, plus restitution.
Dominic Vincent Landi, 30, of Juneberry Court in Sterling:
On April 18, Dominic Landi was performing HVAC work at a home along the 4400-block of Highland Avenue in Bethesda. Three weeks later, a male resident reported his $25,000 Patek Philippe Calatrava watch had been stolen from a cabinet within the $1.5 million home.
Authorities checked pawn records and learned Landi sold it to Samuelson's Buyers in Friendship Heights on April 20. He reportedly received $5,500 for the sale, approximately 22 percent of the watch's assessed value.
According to online court records, Landi has a criminal record in Maryland and Virginia. He had been working as a technician for AVS Heating and Cooling on the day of the alleged theft. The Vienna-based company did not return a phone call seeking comment about its hiring practices or Landi's employment status.
Montgomery County Police have charged Landi with theft between $25,000 and $100,000 and theft between $1,500 and $25,000. As investigators see it, there are two victims, the watch's owner and the jewelry store.
There is currently a warrant out for Landi's arrest because he failed to appear for a recent court hearing. He faces up to 15 years in prison.