High-rise fire clean-up crew stole $19,000 from resident’s apartment, prosecutors say

Chicago — Two contractors stole more than $19,000 worth of cash and jewelry from an apartment while cleaning up after a major fire that killed one and injured nine others in Kenwood, officials said.

Jose Gamboa, 26, and Ander Jose Uzcategui Pacheco, 20, were each charged with residential burglary during a bond hearing on Sunday afternoon.

The men were part of an “emergency services and restoration company” that was hired to help restore the building after fire ripped through several floors of the building at 4850 South Lake Park on Wednesday, Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Janes said.

Jose Gamboa (L) and Ander Jose Uzcategui Pacheco are accused of stealing $19,000 cash and jewelry while working as clean-up contractors after a high-rise fire in Kenwood. | Chicago Police Department; Citizen App

Gamboa and Pacheco entered an apartment that was not damaged by the fire while the residents were out of town. Alerted by a security system, the victim pulled up camera footage and saw the men inside their unit without permission, Janes said.

Gamboa is “clearly seen” on the camera, and Pacheco was seen taking the camera and apparently smashing it, according to Janes.

The victim contacted building managers, who notified the clean-up contractor. Gamboa and Pacheco were arrested when they reported to the building the next day.

According to the victim, $3,000 was missing from an envelope in their kitchen drawer, and another $16,000 was missing from an envelope under their bed. Two pieces of jewelry were also gone, according to Janes.

Neither man has any criminal convictions.

Noting that they were hired for a “position of trust,” Judge Susana Ortiz ordered each man to pay a $500 bail deposit to be released.

The Chicago Fire Department found that “careless use of smoking materials” was the cause of the fire. 

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