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Police still searching for ‘organized’ wallet thieves

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 4, 2015

 The suspect accused of taking stolen credit cards to banks to obtain cash advances looks seemingly older than her associates who allegedly took the cards. The unlikely partnership makes the case tough to crack.

The suspect accused of taking stolen credit cards to banks to obtain cash advances looks seemingly older than her associates who allegedly took the cards. The unlikely partnership makes the case tough to crack.

Photo provided by Bloomfield Township police

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — It’s been nearly three weeks, and there are still no leads in the wallet-swiping spree that was reported to the Bloomfield Township Police Department Oct. 15-16.


According to Sgt. James Gallagher of the Bloomfield Township Police Department, all the facts seem to indicate that the three wallet thefts were perpetrated by a team of organized, highly experienced criminals.


“It was definitely an orchestrated thing,” he said. “They definitely knew what they were doing. In all, including the frauds, they made off with well over $20,000.”


It all started Oct. 15, when officers responded to a call from a woman shopping at the Trader Joe’s store on Telegraph. The victim said that while she was inside the store shopping just after 3 p.m. that day, she placed her purse in the shopping cart she was using. At one point, an unknown man walked by the shopping cart and, without her knowing, removed her wallet from the purse.

 

The following day, officers responded to two similar calls, both between 4 and 5 p.m. Oct. 16. The first call came from a shopper at the Kroger store on West Maple, followed by one soon after from Costco on Telegraph. In both incidents, the victims said their wallets had been taken while they were shopping inside the store and that they had left their purse in the cart. They noticed the items missing before leaving the store.


Gallagher said there were several indicators in the cases that point to the involvement of experienced thieves. The first is the participation of several suspects — a young man and a young woman, and a third who appears to be an older woman. The range in age makes it seem as though the parties would have no connection, he said.


The second clue is the fact that the suspects took the stolen credit cards they swiped from the purses and immediately used them to get cash advances from nearby banks.


“Most of the (victims) reported the thefts immediately once they realized they were gone. But by then, the suspects had already used the credit cards — all within the hour after the incidents. They knew to use those cards immediately before (the victims) noticed they were gone and canceled them.”


Three weeks later, and there haven’t been other incidents reported that match that expert methodology. The good news, Gallagher said, is that the suspects were likely from out of town and have probably moved on. The bad news, though, is that now the trail is cold.


While detectives continue to study surveillance tapes from the incidents, Gallagher said he can only warn shoppers to take the opportunity out of “crimes of opportunity.”


“Keep your purse on you, and keep it zipped,” he said. “These suspects worked in concert with each other, and one would pass the victim as the other grabbed the wallet. But if it was zipped, there wouldn’t be a (target).”

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