Distracting, slashing thieves elude PB police

By Lindsay Cohen email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WELLINGTON, FL (WFLX) - The thieves panned out like a pack of animals on the attack: A few covered the victim, others distracted her, before one went in for the kill.

"It was definitely a planned attack, in my opinion," said Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy Dwayne Brown. "It was definitely planned."

On Thursday, Brown showed surveillance video of the distraction theft, with the hopes that it could help catch the thieves before they strike again.

In the video, a group of seven suspects appear to be targeting a senior citizen who is shopping at the Mall at Wellington Green.

The victim enters the Forever 21clothing store Friday morning. She is followed by three women and then four men, ages ranging from young to old. Two of the men look similar enough that they could be brothers, or even twins.

Some of the suspects ask the victim's opinion on clothes to both gain her trust and distract her, police said. Others hold up clothes to block the view of other employees and customers and even the surveillance camera. While this is going on, a final suspect uses a sharp object to slash the side of the woman's designer purse. The woman then snatches the victim's wallet, and the victim barely feels a thing.

"It seemed like [the thieves are] very comfortable with what they're doing," Brown said. "They seemed as if they didn't have a problem approaching this woman. Obviously they followed her from another store or maybe they followed her throughout the mall. We don't know."

Women at the mall on Thursday were surprised when told about the distraction theft, but argue many shoppers don't ever pay attention to their purses.

"That scares me. That really scares me," said Simone Gray, who works at a mall clothing store. "You can't trust anybody. You can't trust your surroundings, none of that."

"That's amazing," added Candace Boldon, who also works at the mall. "I mean, you really have to be careful."

"Hopefully they'll find out who did this and we can stop this from happening in the future," Boldon added.

The Sheriff's Office believes the Wellington theft could be related to similar ones on the Treasure Coast.

If you know anything or recognize the people in the video, call Palm Beach County Crimestoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS.