San Diego

Hillcrest Vacation Rental Home Targeted by Trio of Thieves

One of the suspects booked the home through the popular vacation rental site VRBO

A trio of thieves is suspected of using a popular vacation rental website to steal from a Hillcrest vacation home.

One of the suspects booked the home through the popular vacation rental site, VRBO. Now the homeowners say they believe others could have also been targets.

From giving tours of the koi pond and herb garden to the patio with a jacuzzi, Zapher Dajani said he likes to make his vacation rental guests through VRBO feel comfortable when renting his Hillcrest home.

So when he got a last-minute booking Monday, he laid out the red carpet.

“I really wanted to show him and make him feel at home," Dajani said of his latest renter.

Dajani told NBC 7 a guest with the profile name of Malik Simmons took advantage of his hospitality.

Surveillance video captured two of three accomplices stealing items in the vacation rental that belong to Dajani and his partner.

Dajani said police asked him not to release video of the main suspect.

“It was heart-wrenching. My stomach just dropped," Dajani said. "It was the biggest feeling of violation."

Dajani told NBC 7 that the thieves stole art hanging on the wall, furniture and dismantled other equipment. What they ditched was waiting in the foyer of the Hillcrest home when Dajani returned Tuesday after the visitor's checkout.

“They were staging it to put everything in the front foyer of the house and have a truck come up and load it quickly," Dajani said.

Dajani believes the doorbell camera spooked the trio into abandoning the heist, forcing them to leave behind some of the stolen goods including someone else's bed slats, which were thrown in the bushes of their home.

Seeing other people's stolen property at their home made Dajani's partner Derick Dorner believe other VRBO hosts across San Diego could fall prey.

“Makes you feel really violated knowing other people got robbed too,” said Dorner. It's unbelievable."

A detective on the case was not available to answer if this is part of a larger trend.

The suspect's profile is still active on VRBO.

Dajani said he and his partner are concerned the crimes could continue and are questioning VRBO's verification process. 

In response to a request from NBC 7 for comment on this case, VRBO released this statement via email Thursday:

"We are aware of the incident and available to assist the police with their investigation. Owners who list on our sites have up to 24 hours to review potential guests and can use tools on the site such as reviews of travelers by other owners to help them decide who they accept to stay in their property. In addition to reviewing potential guests, owners should purchase homeowner’s insurance, like HomeAway Assure, to be protected from theft and damages."

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