San Diego police are searching for a group of suspects who allegedly worked together to distract a woman at a grocery store as part of a ploy to steal her wallet right from her purse.
According to the San Diego Police Department, the theft happened at a La Jolla Whole Foods store located 8825 Villa La Jolla Drive on Mar. 21 at around 4 p.m. The group effort was captured on surveillance tape, and police released images of the suspects for the first time Friday.
Here’s how the incident happened: police said the victim left her purse unattended in her shopping cart while she waited to place an order at the meat counter. The first suspect walked through the store and noticed the victim, and then alerted the second and third suspects of the victim’s location.
The second suspect – a young woman with shoulder-length hair and eyeglasses – then approached the victim and distracted her while the third suspect, a woman with dark hair in a ponytail, took the wallet from the unwitting victim’s purse.
After snatching the wallet, all three suspects reconvened and left Whole Foods in a dark-colored, four-door sedan and drove to a Target store located at 5680 Balboa Ave. At Target, the second suspect bought gift cards with the victim’s stolen credit cards.
Police said a fourth suspect – a bald man in a white, striped polo shirt – was spotted at Target acting as a lookout. Detectives believe he may have been the driver of the suspects’ getaway vehicle.
The identities of all four suspects remain unknown, but police are hoping to track down more information by releasing the suspects’ photos.
Detectives said the first suspect – who may be a man or woman – was also involved in a similar theft case at the same Whole Foods store in La Jolla on Dec. 29, 2013.
In that case, the victim was an 80-year-old woman and the suspect worked with an unknown man to distract the victim and steal her wallet from her purse.
Police said the elderly woman had placed her open purse containing her wallet in the basket of her shopping cart as she walked around the store, catching the attention of the thieves who then began following her around as she shopped.
Both cases remain under investigation.
Anyone with information should call the SDPD Northern Division at (858) 552-1700 or the Crime Stoppers tip line at (888) 580-8477. Tipsters can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the grand theft case.
Here's the video of the Mar. 21 theft: