January 5, 2018

Suspects sought in series of gift card thefts

Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers is asking for the public’s help identifying several individuals wanted in connection with at least five gift card thefts at various stores throughout Lee and Charlotte Counties.

Detectives say they believe the suspects in these cases are organized and are familiar with the operations of a cash register.  The most recent incident occurred on Christmas Eve, when two black males entered the Wal Mart store, located at 19975 S. Tamiami Trail just after 4:30 a.m.  The suspects wanted to purchase three Visa gift cards, valued at $500 each.  The suspects handed the cashier the gift cards and she rang them up.  Before they could finalize the purchase, they distracted the cashier by asking for cigarettes.  Once the employee turned around to retrieve the requested items, one of the males reached over to the register and entered the cash out button, which completed the transaction and activated the untraceable cards.  By doing this, the cashier was left with the impression that the suspect had actually paid for the cards while she had her back turned. The men left the store with $1,500 in gift cards.  The theft wasn’t noticed until store managers realized the register was short that night, and reviewed surveillance video, which showed the stealthy actions of the well versed crooks.

The suspects in the December 24th case are described as black males – one with long dreads, a blue shirt and blue sweatpants and the other with short dreads, a long sleeved blue and white shirt and black jeans.

In addition to the Christmas Eve theft, there are at least three other similar cases in Lee County, and two in Charlotte County, with several different suspects, including a black female, who have committed identical crimes at Family Dollar stores, Dollar General stores and Wal Mart locations.  The string of thefts started in late November and spanned through the end of December.

Anyone with information on the identities and whereabouts of the suspects are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).  All callers will remain anonymous and will be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.  Tips may also be made online at www.southwestfloridacrimestoppers.com or by submitting a tip on the P3Tips mobile app.