By Barbara Boyer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — An alleged Center City thief who police said posed as a fire inspector to burglarize the Academy of Music, Independence Visitor Center, and the Art Institute of Philadelphia showed promise as a white-collar criminal.
That career, however, was cut short by a rookie mistake: signing his real name to a visitor log, police said.
Christopher Kieter, 26, of the 200 block of South 13th Street, is charged with impersonating a public official, criminal trespass, theft, and related offenses.
Police spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little said that detectives use all resources available to investigate crimes, but that finding a name at the crime scene was "definitely a great resource."
The story began about 11 p.m. Jan. 3, when security guards at the Academy of Music in the 200 block of South Broad Street reported that a man wearing a Philadelphia Fire Department shirt had arrived to inspect fire extinguishers, according to police.
He had a handheld radio and identified himself as Chris Kieter. A security official walked him through the building, but lost sight of the so-called inspector.
Kieter allegedly slipped into the theater where a Toshiba computer, headphones, and a radio with "Les Mis" – for Les Misérables - written on the front were stolen.
The next day at the Visitor Center, housekeeping staffers met an "inspector" who entered through the entrance of 1 North Independence Mall West at 7:20 p.m., police said.
He was wearing a Fire Department sweatshirt, had a handheld radio, and needed the lights turned on to inspect extinguishers.
In less than 30 minutes, a surveillance camera captured him reaching behind the concierge desk to pocket a $2,500 handheld radio that belonged to the U.S. Park Service, police said. He moved to the second floor and took a wireless microphone valued at $639, police said.
At 1:30 p.m. Jan. 8, a man appeared at the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the 1600 block of Chestnut Street wearing a blue Fire Department hoodie. He said he was there to inspect extinguishers and, police said, proceeded to pull 20 tags off extinguishers and threatened to fine the building manager if they were not replaced.
He then ordered everyone to leave the sixth-floor lobby because he needed to spray fumes. When authorities returned a few minutes later, two laptops were missing.
When police arrived, they said they found Kieter's signature on the visitor's log. On Thursday, they recovered the stolen items during a search of Kieter's home, police said.
Copyright 2013 Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC
All Rights Reserved