“What they are doing is interrupting or bumping our victims at local restaurants and crowded areas here in the city and their credit cards are being taken, their wallets and purses are being taken and what happens is there is an immediate turnaround and a lot of expensive items are being purchased with their credit cards,” said Everett police officer Aaron Snell.
It happened around noon March 7th at Panera Bread on SE Everett to Leslie Hynes.
"We were at the kiosks and it was really crowded and as I was moving away from the kiosk that I had used, somebody kind of bumped past me to get to that kiosk and after I thought about it, I thought that was kind of unusual because the kiosk closest to the door had been vacated," said Hynes.
Within minutes, the crooks used her stolen cards to purchase $14,000 worth of laptops and other items at Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Video shows six suspects.
“We do not believe these crimes are isolated incidences. Rather, criminals are making coordinated efforts to victimize unsuspecting people throughout the Puget Sound,” says Financial Crimes Sergeant Matt Mekelburg. “Be aware of your surroundings and take a few basic steps to protect your financial security.”
That means zipping up your purse.
At 2 p.m. on March 7th, another victim was at Trader Joe’s on SE Everett Mall Way. A female approached her and started asking questions. After the conversation, the victim realized her wallet was gone and several credit cards were immediately used at Target. The suspect purchased over $3,200 in gift cards and left in a white SUV.
“The pattern of crime occurring in Snohomish County is tied to a multi-state series of thefts committed by an extremely large and organized group of individuals,” says Everett Detective Jamie French. “These criminals are victimizing people from the Pacific Northwest to New York City and down to Florida.”
French is working with multiple agencies throughout the United States and advises: “The crimes have been linked due to locations of occurrence, particularly Panera Bread and Trader Joes, and the retail locations where victims’ credit cards were used.”
As detectives work these cases, similar crimes around the region have been connected:
• March 14th between 1-4pm: Wallet stolen at Panera Bread (Bellevue Way - Bellevue, WA) to purchase Apple, Microsoft,
and Target merchandise.
• February 19th at about 2 pm: Wallet stolen at Panera Bread (Bellevue Way - Bellevue, WA) and attempted to purchase an
• February 2nd at about 1:15 pm: Wallet stolen at Trader Joe’s (SE Everett Mall Way - Everett, WA) to purchase Best Buy,
Apple, and Microsoft merchandise.
• January 3rd between 2:30-2:50: Wallet stolen at Panera Bread (Factoria, WA) with $4,000 of merchandise bought at Best
• December 9th: Suspects steal a wallet at Panera Bread (Lynnwood, WA) and purchase gift cards at nearby Safeway.
• December 9th: Credit cards stolen at Panera Bread (Woodinville, WA) used to purchase merchandise at Nordstrom’s
• December 9th: Purse stolen at Maggiano’s Restaurant (Bellevue, WA) with credit cards used to purchase gifts cards at
"We believe there are currently more than 50 people involved. Every day our detectives are finding out there are more suspects so we want to start making arrests. We want them to know they are not welcome here in Everett and they're not welcome anywhere else," said Snell.
Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call the Everett Police Department TIP LINE at (425) 257-8450 or Crime Stoppers of Puget Sound at 1-800-222-TIPS or use the P3 Tips App on your phone. It is anonymous and there is a cash reward of up to $1,000 for any information that leads to an arrest in the case.