Detectives are searching for three suspects who plotted to distract a shopper at Fashion Valley Mall, stealing her wallet and then going on a $15,000 shopping spree at the mall using the victim’s credit cards.
The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) released details of the theft for the first time Friday, along with photos of the three suspects.
The crime happened around 2:15 p.m. on March 17, as the victim shopped at a Sephora store inside Fashion Valley Mall. The victim was holding her 9-month-old baby when two of the suspects – a man and a woman – started talking to her in a ploy to distract her.
Investigators said that as the suspects made small talk with the victim, a third suspect – another woman – snagged the victim’s wallet from inside her purse. The victim’s handbag was attached to her baby’s stroller, police said.
It took a while for the victim to realize her wallet was missing – enough time for the group to go shopping at several stores throughout the mall.
Investigators said the suspects used the victim’s stolen identification card and credits cards to rack up more than $15,000 in fraudulent purchases at stores like Bloomingdale's, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. They also shopped at Target.
Three weeks later, the suspects remain at large.
Detectives describe the male suspect – known, for now, as “Suspect 1” – as 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-10 with a thin build. He has dark-colored hair and is approximately 40 years old. He wore a tan Fedora hat with a black band on it.
The woman who was with him while talking to the victim is known by detectives as “Suspect 2.” She’s described as being in her late 30s, around 5-foot-3 with a heavy build. She had shoulder-length brown hair. “Suspect 3” – the woman who swept in and took the victim’s wallet from her purse – is described as having similar characteristics as Suspect 2.
NBC 7 spoke to the victim Friday. She didn't want to be identified but said she wants to share her story so others won't fall prey to thieves this way.
The mother said she had a strange feeling while talking to the suspects, like something just wasn’t right.
She said the man and woman were well-dressed, nice and charismatic and, at first, seemed to be admiring her baby. However, she soon learned their motive wasn’t quite so cute.
“The encounter was a little longer than your traditional ‘Oh, you have a cute baby.’ Looking back on it now, I can see that he was distracting me for quite a while,” the victim told NBC 7.
The victim said the man tickled her infant and told her she was cute. As the compliments continued, the victim didn’t realize the third suspect was in the process of nabbing her wallet.
“I just can’t believe that they used my baby to distract me,” she said.
The victim said seeing the photos of the suspects released by police Friday made her “sick.”
“Seeing those pictures again makes my blood boil,” she told NBC 7. “It makes me so angry that they could do that to me and my baby -- but not only that, they looked so normal. It's not like your stereotypical thief trying to get your wallet.”
The victim said she wants other to be aware that something like this could happen when one least expects it.
Based on the transaction records for her stolen credit cards, the victim said she knows exactly what the thieves bought. She now regularly checks listings on Craigslist and eBay, hoping to spot the items and eventually catch the crooks.
Anyone who recognizes the suspects or knows their whereabouts can contact the SDPD’s Western Division at (619) 692-4800 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
The police department said the suspects are facing charges of grand theft and credit card fraud.