TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. – Police in Missouri and Illinois are asking for the public's help identifying multiple suspects who were caught on camera stealing from unsuspecting victims. With the busy shopping season here, detectives hope to catch the suspects before they strike again.
Fox 2/News 11 first reported about these suspects in late October after they stole a man's wallet in Fairview Heights. Surveillance footage helped investigators connect that crime with another wallet theft in Town and Country.
On October 25, Karen Dreier was visiting from Kansas City to care for her mother who was having some health issues. While eating lunch with her mother and sister at Whole Foods in Town and Country, Dreier hung her purse on the back of her chair.
The surveillance video shows a man sit down at the table behind Dreier. He hangs his coat on the chair to his right.
Minutes later, as he is joined by another man, the first man can be seen reaching into Dreier's purse. Then, he again reaches into her purse, lifts her wallet out, and quickly slips it under his coat, which he sets in his lap.
"You feel violated when somebody comes into your space like that, and that you didn't even feel them or know that they were there," Dreier said.
Ten seconds later, the two men get up from the table and leave.
"It was very calculated where he walked around the store empty-handed, he wasn't obviously shopping for any merchandise at the Whole Foods, and then he specifically went and sat behind his target," said Town and Country police Detective Katie Exline.
While shopping after lunch, Dreier realized her wallet was gone. Before her cards were canceled, the suspects charged "thousands of dollars," she said.
Exline said the suspects were caught on camera using or attempting to use Dreier's cards at other stores.
To see if there were similar cases in the area, Exline posted details of Dreier's case to the St. Louis Intelligence Bulletin, an information sharing site for law enforcement. She got a hit.
"I was notified when I posted the images of our suspects that (Fairview Heights police) were working a similar case," Exline said.
Fox 2/News 11 previously reported about a pickpocket incident at a Bob Evans restaurant in Fairview Heights. Investigations revealed that incident occurred the day after Dreier's wallet was stolen.
In the Fairview Heights case, multiple suspects coordinated swiping a 71-year-old man's wallet from his jacket pocket. The suspects purchased thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards at a CVS in Swansea.
Anyone with information about the suspects or these crimes asked to contact Det. Exline at 314-587-2866 or the Fairview Heights Police Department at 618-489-2100. Anonymous tips may be submitted at www.fhpd.org.