CLIVE, Iowa -- Clive police say they are getting close to identifying one man in a pickpocket ring that's been operating since at least 2016, but still need the public's help to identify the criminals he's working with.
“We have an individual that has been going around and has actually been pickpocketing women, taking their billfolds and wallets and checkbooks out of actual purses,” said Clive Detective Maurio Coleman.
Clive police got wind of the case after a woman reported fraudulent charges coming from a West Des Moines Target store. Coleman says a well-dressed man stole her card at a restaurant and his female partner used it to buy $4,000 in gift cards, makeup, and perfumes.
“Fast forward to 2017, had the same individuals actually pickpocket a lady's purse while she was exiting a restaurant,” said Coleman.
That was back in April. In security video footage, a man in a hat can be seen bumping into a woman in the entrance to the establishment. Meanwhile, the suit and tie-wearing crook comes from behind, and while the woman is distracted, slides his hand into her purse with his jacket concealing the move. Later that day, the man wearing the hat and a new woman exit the West Des Moines Target.
“Fast forward to an even closer date, September 15th, we had a victim who was eating at the same restaurant from April, had her wallet taken out of her purse, and again you see the same individual enter and exit the restaurant,” said Coleman.
Back at the Target, the woman police believe was used in the 2016 crime can be seen coming out by herself with more gift cards and, this time, cell phones.
“It's still common, and again a lot of times people believe that they possibly may have lost their wallet or lost their billfold or maybe dropped it out of their purse. They don't think about the fact that people can literally reach into their purse and actually take that stuff out,” said Coleman.
Police are almost sure they've identified the well-dressed man in the crimes, but are still looking for information on the three others involved in the case. Detective Coleman says the group does not appear to be from Iowa and is likely moving throughout the Midwest.
Police ask anyone with information to call the Clive non-emergency number at 515-278-1312.