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For the week of October 4 through 10, 2000

Credit card thieves hit trailheads


"We believe that what’s been going on is they’re working in a group, as many as four, and they’ll watch to see people park, and then go in with a ‘slim Jim,’ take the credit cards and then lock the vehicle back up."

Walt Femling, Blaine County sheriff


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

An apparent gang of professional thieves has been stealing credit cards from locked vehicles at local trailhead parking lots.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said in an interview yesterday that his office has received eight complaints of such thefts—four that apparently occurred last weekend and four that occurred two weeks ago.

"We believe that what’s been going on is they’re working in a group, as many as four, and they’ll watch to see people park, and then go in with a ‘slim Jim,’ take the credit cards and then lock the vehicle back up," he said.

Femling said the thieves have not touched cash—in one instance several hundred dollars—contained in the wallets. He said a card was taken from one wallet hidden under a car floor mat.

One apparent victim of the thefts said in an interview yesterday that she had a credit card stolen from her vehicle at the Lake Creek trailhead Sunday, and her husband had a card stolen at the trailhead at the end of Corral Creek Road two weekends previous.

Femling said all the cards stolen locally have been used to obtain cash in Las Vegas—a place where lots of people use credit cards to obtain lots of cash.

"It all happens within two to three days," he said. "They’ll use it every half hour until they max it."

Femling said the local thefts appear to be have been carried out by a Russian- and Romanian-run gang working among Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle. He said the gang appears to be still in operation even though its leader was arrested in Seattle three weeks ago.

Femling said his office has been in contact with police agencies in Las Vegas and King County, Wash., as well as the U.S. Secret Service.

According to the Secret Service, card holders are responsible for only a token amount when charges are made on a stolen card.

 

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