By Jeff Todd
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – After a rash of thefts and burglaries, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office is hoping people can help to stop a national crime ring that’s been operating in the Denver area for months.
The ring, known as the “Felony Lane Gang,” usually steals checkbooks and IDs from purses in cars and then uses them to be cash in money at drive-thru banks.
“They put a screwdriver in the keyhole and then they hit it with something and it bypassed my alarm,” said Lori Koupp about her purse being stolen outside of her child’s day care center. “I knew I had a book of checks in there and just started canceling all of my credit cards.”
Canceling the checks didn’t matter, because banks still allow them to be cashed.
She found a Facebook page for the Felony Lane Gang Task Force.
“I found it on Facebook, the Felony Lane Gang and I’m like, okay, and it step by step (was) systematically exactly what had happened to me and the other lady that was at the day care center I was at,” Koupp said.
The task force says the thieves target places where moms will be too busy to stay vigilant, like child events, gyms and day care centers.
“They call it the felony lane because it’s the furthest lane from the bank so they can’t really see you from the teller,” Koupp said.
“They are trying to make a quick buck trying to get whatever cash they can out of the bank, again as passing themselves off as victims whose identities they’ve stolen,” said Julie Brooks with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. “For this particular organization the checks are huge. We have seen cases where they have left electronics, credit cards, but they take checks and they take identifications.”
On Thursday the sheriff’s office released a picture of a woman believed to be connected. They’re hoping anyone can recognize her and help bring down others involved.
But the task force vigilante group and others think the banks are what keeps the crime of opportunity available.
“It’s going to require the banks too to make this not as easy. It’s just too easy. They’re cashing thousands of dollars, but there has to be another safeguard,” Koupp said.
The sheriff’s office advises people, especially women, to stay vigilant at all time.
“Look around you while you’re there, try and take your belongings with you, but look for those suspicious vehicles and people who shouldn’t be there and notify us, we’d like to come take a look. You just need to be aware all the time,” Brooks advises.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.