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For the week of May 23 through May 29, 2001

Credit card thieves hit trailheads

Express Staff Writer

Following a resurgence of credit card thefts from cars parked at trailheads, valley police are advising outdoor enthusiasts to leave their wallets at home.

An apparently professional gang began hitting the area with similar thefts last fall. None were reported over the winter, but police have received four complaints this month about thefts from cars at the Lake Creek, Prairie Creek and Trail Creek parking lots, as well as at Boundary campground on Trail Creek Road.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling reported in October that the thefts were apparently being carried out by a gang run by Russians and Romanians operating among Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle. He said the thieves took stolen credit cards to Las Vegas, where they used them to obtain cash at casinos.

"These guys are professionals," said Sun Valley police Corporal Kim Orchard this week. "Whether people lock their cars or not, these people have the tools to open them up."

Orchard said the thieves take only one or two credit cards, then lock the cars again.

"People don’t know they’re stolen until the bank calls and says, ‘Your card’s maxed out. What are you doing?’"

He said the thieves operate in groups of two or more people, with one acting as lookout while others break into cars. He suggested that people parking at trailheads be alert for anyone not appearing to be there for recreational purposes.

"The only way we’re going to stop this is through education and to have everyone watching," he said.

The Ketchum Ranger District posted signs at popular local trailheads over the weekend warning people not to leave valuables in their cars.


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