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Public’s Help Sought Identifying Theft Suspects Who Targeted, Distracted Elderly Victims

A photo from surveillance footage shows two suspects wanted by the Sheriff's Department in connection with recent cases in which personal property was stolen from elderly victims. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department is investigating several recent cases involving elderly victims who were intentionally distracted while their personal property was stolen.

The Sheriff’s Department wants to caution residents to be aware of this recent crime trend and would also request assistance in helping to identify several suspects related to the most recent case.

On Monday, June 22 about 1:30 p.m. at the Ralph’s grocery store in the 5100 block of Hollister Avenue, a 77-year-old female victim was shopping when several suspects worked together to distract her and steal her wallet out of her purse, which was located in her shopping cart. One suspect talked to the victim while the other reached behind her and stole her wallet.

Surveillance video shows the suspects being dropped off at the store in a black, four-door, late model sedan with tinted windows. The suspects are then seen entering the store, wandering the aisles in search of a victim and committing the crime. The suspects then exit the store and walk into the parking lot.

About 20 minutes later, a third female suspect is seen entering Walgreen’s in the 5900 block of Calle Real in Goleta. The female suspect is captured on surveillance video purchasing a $500 gift card along with a gift bag and a greeting card using the victim’s stolen credit card. The suspect then attempted to purchase a second $500 gift card, but the credit card was declined.

Fortunately, a Good Samaritan located the victim’s driver’s license in a nearby parking lot and mailed it back to her.

A photo from surveillance footage shows a woman who police believe purchased a $500 gift card and other items with a stolen credit card. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department courtesy photo)

The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the crimes of burglary, grand theft person, conspiracy and credit card fraud. If you have information related to this case, contact Deputy Freedman at 805.681.4101.

The Sheriff’s Department is also investigating two cases where a Hispanic male used a distraction technique involving a water bottle to steal a purse from two elderly female victims.

The first incident happened on June 4 about 1 p.m. at the Albertson’s parking lot in the 5700 block of Calle Real. An 82-year-old victim was backing out of a parking spot when a suspect warned her that she was about to hit a water bottle. When the victim got out of her car to inspect the water bottle, the suspect reached into her car and took her purse.

On June 18 about 4:40 p.m. in the 5800 block of Calle Real, a suspect approached a 78-year-old female while she was sitting in her car and asked her to move her car in order to make space for him. The victim refused to move and the suspect opened her passenger door and stole her tote bag. As the suspect fled on foot, the victim saw the suspect pick up a water bottle under her rear tire.

If you have any information regarding any of these cases, please call 805.681.4100. The Sheriff’s Department wants to take this opportunity to remind residents to be cognizant of their surroundings and of potential predators.

— Kelly Hoover is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.

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