Olathe police warning of group of thieves targeting women in metro and their purses

OLATHE, Kan. – The Olathe Police Department is warning the public about quick-handed thieves that may be back in the metro.

Sgt. Logan Bonney with OPD said the department believes a group of criminals is targeting women who leave their purses on the floor or on the back of their chairs and are making off with their valuables.

“They’re professionals,” Bonney said. “It is a, what we believe to be a group, an organized group of individuals that this is their job.”

On Thursday, the department posted security camera footage from August 2017 of a theft inside an Olathe restaurant on its Twitter page.

“We wanted to put the video our to show the public some of their techniques and warn the public that this is in our area or it could be in our area and to keep an eye on your belongings,” Bonney said.

The video shows a man distracting a woman by hitting the back of her chair several times, but what she doesn’t realize is that the man grabbed her wallet.

“You can see them eyeing that purse, coming in,” Bonney said, referencing the video. “They had a plan. They knew exactly what they were doing.”

The video goes on to show the man rifling through the woman’s purse before taking her credit cards and handing them to his partner.

“They’re preying on people, especially woman, that aren’t really paying attention,” Bonney said.

He said the department has reason to a believe a group of criminals, with the same intentions, might be back in the area now.

“There’s been reports all throughout the metro of this type of theft and criminal use of a financial card and I think it’s even bigger than the metro,” Bonney said.

Janice Johnson happened to be the victim in the video. She and a friend had decided to eat lunch at the Olathe restaurant after getting off work.

“He was good,” Johnson said. “He was slick.”

The criminals charged more than $4,000 on Johnson’s bank and credit cards; they bought several gift cards with money, according to a police report.

“It couldn’t have been more than 15-20 minutes, and they had gone over there and spent that much money,” Johnson said.

She was able to dispute the charges

“I come out relatively OK on the matter, but some people wouldn’t,” Johnson said.

According to CreditCards.com, data compiled by the Federal Trade Commission shows consumers paid more than $744 million in fraud complaints between 2012-2016.

“It’s a big hassle if you’re a victim of identity theft or this criminal use of a financial card,” Bonney said.

OPD hopes the video will not only deter criminals from attempting to commit similar crimes but that people be more aware of their belongings and stay vigilant.

“Keep your belongings in your line of sight and if something’s going on, something’s bothering you, investigate it. Check it out,” Bonney said.

Johnson said the experience was a lesson well learned.

“I try to be more vigilant and, like my son said, you put the purse in your lap, and I do,” Johnson added.

One of the men in the video, Victor Gonzalez-Beiza, was arrested and has since been found guilty of identity theft, according to court records. The other man remains on the loose.