Federal Way police are warning holiday shoppers and retailers about a possible pickpocket operation in the region.
Police believe three or four well-dressed black male suspects are stealing wallets from shoppers at Fred Meyer, Walmart and Walgreens. Similar thefts have been reported in Kent, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Seattle and unincorporated King County between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, according to police.
One incident occurred Nov. 26 at the Federal Way Walmart Supercenter, where an 80-year-old widow's wallet was stolen from her purse as she shopped in the early afternoon. The wallet contained cash and credit cards, along with the victim's Medicare card and ID.
Immediately after the theft, transactions for $500 pre-paid Visa gift cards were made in quick succession at Walgreens and Bartell's stores in Des Moines, Tukwila and South Seattle. The spree included failed attempts to withdraw cash at ATMs with the victim's bank card.
The total cost of the fraud and stolen cash is about $2,100, according to the police report. The report notes that criminals in these situations commonly purchase pre-paid gift cards, which are as good as cash.
Federal Way Walmart surveillance footage revealed a suspect who was dropped off by a car, entered the store and was spotted near the victim. The actual theft was not captured on video, but the suspect emerged from the same aisle as the victim, holding a black item that he stuffed into his coat pocket. The suspect spent two minutes in the store and left without making a purchase, according to the police report.
The suspect is described as a black male in his 50's, standing about 5 feet 10 inches, with a light beard and thin build. He was seen wearing a Kangol style cap, black coat, white shirt and khaki pants.
How to help
Anyone with information about the suspect or suspects pictured above may contact Det. Annette Scholl at (253) 835-6892 or Annette.Scholl@cityoffederalway.com.