A 23-year-old Spokane man is suspected of a string of burglaries at South Hill retirement homes.
Police say they found more than 1,000 pieces of jewelry in a car owned by Pavel V. Altukhov, who investigators believe has been stealing from elderly retirement home residents since at least October.
More than 50 victims have reported thefts from their apartments at the Waterford and Rockwood retirement communities.
Police suspect Altukhob has targeted other retirement homes.
"It could get possibly even bigger than this," said Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, spokeswoman for the Spokane Police Department. "He would just look for who was an easy target."
Staff at Waterford and Rockwood helped identify Altukhov as a suspect.
A night maintenance worker at Rockwood chased Altukhov from the facility and gave his car's license plate number to police. Employees at Waterford also escorted him out of their building and helped identify him to police, said Jeffrey Bair, Waterford's executive director.
Each retirement community includes a large building of living units and separate cottage homes nearby. Burglaries occurred at each style of unit.
Police arrested Altukhov on burglary and stolen property charges Friday. Officers added additional burglary charges Tuesday and still are investigating other thefts, DeRuwe said.
Witnesses said Altukhov posed as a family member of a resident and didn't appear out of place until residents began reporting stolen items like TVs and jewelry. He also approached residents in their rooms and offered services such as appraisals as he stole items, police said.
"This individual was apparently very good at fitting in," said Jaak Juhkentaal, Rockwood's vice president for operations. "We're pleased that this isn't routine here, but when it begins, we pay particular attention."
Police identified Altukhov after the Rockwood employee provided his car license plate. They soon discovered he'd sold stolen items at least six local pawn shops, according to court documents.
Bair said he's talked to residents about the importance of locking their homes when they're away.
"While this one person is now in jail, there are plenty of other people out there who are wanting to take advantage of these types of opportunities," Bair said.