Repairman accused of robbing World War II vet

Posted at 6:57 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 03:27:04-04

EL CAJON, Calif. - An arrest warrant has been issued for a supposed repairman suspected of stealing $10,000 from a local World War II veteran.

Last fall, the air conditioner unit in 90-year-old Bob Laesch's mobile home in El Cajon broke. After a referral from a friend, Laesch said Justin Michael Bridges -- who claimed to be an Army veteran -- showed up and fixed it.

"He got it working good, and he was a very pleasant person. He said I reminded him of his grandfather. He just seemed like a good guy," said Laesch.

Bridges showed up at Laesch's last month, and then visited him again on Monday and Tuesday -- with a story.

"He said there was a blowup in the air conditioning in the neighborhood," said Laesch.

With temperatures heating up, he told Laesch he wanted to check on the unit.

Laesch said as Bridges stood at the thermostat, he told him he wanted to test the air conditioner, and asked Laesch to walk outside, watch the compressor and start counting.

Laesch counted to 30, and then the compressor turned on.

Soon after, Bridges left.

"I wonder where he was that whole time. Was he going after what he was after?" said Laesch.

Laesch's granddaughter Melissa Rothrock, who had stopped by, then noticed the iPhone she had set down on the kitchen counter was gone.

In the bedroom, the money pouch Laesch stuffed under his mattress was emptied of $10,000 in cash. The money was his emergency and Christmas fund for family and charities.

"He ruined my plans for helping people that I wanted to help. Now, I can't do it," said Laesch.

"The fact he did this to a fellow veteran … how can you do that to someone?" said Rothrock.

Laesch, a Marine veteran who landed at Iwo Jima, isn't used to giving up.

He filed a police report, and he said, "I hope the bastard goes to jail if they can prove it. That's where he belongs so he can't do this to other people. It's really crappy that a person could be so nice and turn out to be so rotten."

Late Wednesday afternoon, El Cajon police told 10News it issued an arrest warrant for the 33-year-old Bridges.

His former boss said Bridges worked for him briefly before quitting last year.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Laesch.