By Jamie Leary
LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman is hoping her story will remind holiday shoppers to be vigilant after thieves teamed up in a Lakewood Whole Foods and stole her wallet.
The trio, a woman, and 2 men, worked together to distract Lucrecia Birkhauser last Friday. They took her wallet and racked up more than $5,000 at a neighboring Best Buy.
“This guy approached me holding a cabbage,” Birkhauser said.
She said she had a bad feeling but he looked confused so she reluctantly engaged him.
“I mean this took seconds. I would say seconds. So I took my purse and I put it in my shopping cart,” Birkhauser said.
Then he got even close to her, “he put the cabbage right in front of my face almost… he got close to me so it was hard for me to turn at some point.”
When she turned around, her purse was lighter. She turned back toward the man and he was gone.
“It still gives me goosebumps just knowing that these are three and now I know expert thieves, cause the way they did it. I didn’t hear a sound behind me, nothing,” Birkhauser said.
The three immediately made their way to Best Buy. Birkhauser is angry, she wonders why no one asked for identification for such a large credit card purchase.
Experts say merchants aren’t legally obligated.
“So Best Buy made a real $5,000 sale. They could care less who it’s to.” Cary Johnson, Director of Crime Prevention for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, said.
He says it’s more common than you think among merchants.
“They all do. It’s real merchandise going out the door for them. At whatever price they’re charging and then it’s the credit card company that takes the loss,” Johnson said.
While Birkhauser will recoup her losses, she said she feels violated and wants to warn others.
“I have friends, including my daughter, who is kind of careless with purses sometimes. Putting a purse in a shopping cart, hanging it in a restaurant.”
Johnson says especially around the holidays, thieves are relying on distracted shoppers.
“They’re thick this time of year. As soon as the bell rang for the holiday season, November 1st, the crooks are out like crazy in retail areas because that’s where we go with our information and that’s where we’re distracted,” Johnson said.
In Birkhauser’s case, Johnson believes they targeted her the moment she walked in the store. She was shopping alone with a large purse.
All the suspect had to do was look confused over a cabbage and Birkhauser felt compelled to help.
“Distraction is a thief’s best friend,” Johnson said.
When you decide to venture to the stores among the holiday chaos, Johnson has a list of tips. And he says, no matter how tempting it may be to help someone confused over a cabbage, even adults need reminders to never talk to strangers.
If you have any information about the suspects, you are asked to contact Lakewood Police.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.