Dec. 9—A string of wallet and credit card thefts at University Town Centre has local police warning residents to be aware and take proper precautions while shopping in the area.
Granville Police Chief Craig Corkrean provided information on five thefts reported to local law enforcement, all female victims with similar stories, beginning in November, with one incident occurring as recently as Wednesday.
After stealing the wallets, the suspects proceed to immediately spend thousands of dollars on any credit cards found inside.
"The suspects are using distraction techniques to steal the women's wallets, " Corkrean told The Dominion Post. "We are asking everyone, especially elderly females, to not engage with any strangers and to properly secure their wallets and purses."
The first reports came on Nov. 4 when a woman reported to the Westover Police Department that her wallet was stolen from Home Goods in the West Ridge Development.
Following the theft, several thousand dollars of gift cards were purchased from Sam's Club. The suspect was allegedly male and wearing a mask, but appeared to be of Hispanic or Asian descent, the report said.
That same day, a second woman called GPD and said she believed she had lost her wallet at Sam's Club, but then discovered her credit card had been used at Walmart to purchase several thousand dollars' worth of merchandise.
Another woman reported her wallet was stolen from Giant Eagle on Dec. 3 and her cards were used at Best Buy for several thousand dollars.
"She described being distracted by a male subject, who appeared to be Asian, while attempting to get into her vehicle, " the report said. "Video showed one male suspect distracting the female, while another stole her wallet from her vehicle."
Police say a third man was also involved as the driver of their vehicle, which is described as a newer-model white Toyota Tacoma, with possible Florida registration and an American Flag sticker on the back window.
GPD's report says the thieves struck again the following day, charging several thousand dollars at Sam's Club using different credit cards from a woman who reported her wallet was stolen at Home Goods.
One of the stolen cards was a Sam's card and Sam's Club was able to tell investigating officers that "the suspect also went to a Sam's in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and committed the same fraud." Police in St. Clairsville were contacted about that incident.
A fifth victim reported her wallet stolen from T.J. Maxx, followed by charges on her cards at Sam's Club.
"She described being distracted by an Asian female with short black hair, " the report says. A security photo was obtained from Sam's Club and it appears a male suspect made the purchase.
In all of the instances, police say the suspects appear to be either Hispanic or Asian. Corkrean confirmed they believe all of the thefts are related to the same suspects.
Police are implementing some tactics to try to arrest the suspects, Corkrean said, but cannot reveal those tactics to the public due to the open investigation.