Police: Man impersonated fire inspector to steal from three Center City landmarks

Police on Friday arrested a man for allegedly posing as a fire inspector three times to enter and steal from Center City landmarks.

Christopher Keiter, 26, of the 200 block of South 13th Street, is charged with three counts of burglary criminal trespass, theft by unlawful taking and by deception and impersonating a public servant.

Police said that on Jan. 3, 4 and 8, Keiter entered told staffers at three different establishments that he was a fire inspector there to inspect the building’s fire extinguishers. He allegedly wore a Philadelphia Fire Department shirt and carried a handheld radio each time.

Keiter first pulled the stunt on Jan. 3 at the Academy of Music at 240 S. Broad Street, according to investigators.

Police said that he convinced security he was a fire inspector around 11 p.m., but after guards lost sight of him during his “inspection,” Keiter allegedly took a Toshiba computer, a pair of Sony headphones and a radio with “Les Mis” written on the front of it.

Keiter allegedly carried out the same scheme with the housekeeping staff of the Independence Visitor Center at 1 N. Independence Mall around 7:20 p.m. on Jan. 4.

Police said he was inside the building for nearly 30 minutes, during which time he was seen on surveillance tape allegedly reaching behind the first-floor concierge desk and taking a U.S. Park Service Motorola XTS 3000 handheld radio valued at $2,500.

Keiter was also seen in close proximity to the second-floor meeting room, where a Shure SLX24 wireless microphone valued at $639 went missing.

Keiter allegedly hit the Art Institute of Philadelphia at 1622 Chestnut Street next, showing up around 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 8 while wearing a blue fire department sweatshirt, cargo pants and a badge around his neck and carrying a laptop with some type of fire department logo, police said.

An employee told police that a man believed to be Keiter acted like he was conducting an inspection, pulling the tags off at least 20 fire extinguishers and telling the building manager he would need to replace them or face a fine.

Keiter allegedly stopped at the equipment cage in the sixth-floor lobby area and announced that the building needed to be evacuated because he was going to spray fumes into the air.

Employees returned to find that two laptops were missing from the area and called police, according to investigators.

Authorities were able to track Keiter down because he signed the buildings’ visitor log-in books using his real name. Investigators executed a search warrant at Keiter’s home on Thursday and found the stolen items, police said.

Keiter was arraigned on Friday and is currently jailed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in lieu of 10 percent of $15,000 bail. He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 29.

The man is no stranger to the law. According to court documents, he has two active cases awaiting transfer from Philadelphia to Montgomery County court.

In one case, he is charged with theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property for an alleged incident on Jan. 4 of last year. In a second case, he is charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, driving with a suspended or revoked license, driving the wrong way and with two counts each of receiving stolen property and theft by unlawful taking for an alleged incident on Jan. 2 of last year.

Keiter pleaded guilty in Montgomery County court this June to two felony counts of receiving stolen property in connection with two separate arrests. He was sentenced to three to 23 months in jail and five years of probation.

He also pleaded guilty in Montgomery Court last January to the same charge regarding a different incident and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Keiter was in May convicted by a court in Philadelphia of filing a false report falsely incriminating another and received one year of probation. A charge of impersonating a public servant was withdrawn in that case.

He in 2008 pleaded guilty to writing bad checks in Bucks County and received 18 months of probation.

Keiter was in 2007 sentenced to time served plus 23 months and three years of probation after pleading guilty to impersonating a public servant in Philadelphia.

He was in 2007 sentenced to five to 23 months in jail and two years of probation in Montgomery County after pleading guilty by theft by failing to make the requiring disposition of funds.

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