Warren County pickpocket investigation widens

WARREN COUNTY, Ohio -- Ladies, watch your purses.

That’s the message the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is delivering to women after a series of recent thefts at eateries and businesses in the county. 

Purses and wallets were stolen from women at the chain restaurant Panera in Springdale and West Chester.

Debbie Nadaud had a similar experience at the Whole Foods in Deerfield Township. She was eating lunch with friends when she says someone snuck up behind her and stole her wallet out of her purse.

"I suspect (my purse) may have been open. It was unzipped because I was reaching in," she said. She also said the style of furniture at the Panera made her more vulnerable. "The chairs there are much lower (so it) would have been hanging down more."

She said she sat and finished her lunch, and didn’t realize what had happened until she made it home.

"When I got home I looked at my messages and the first one was from my bank,” she said. “The Visa, they had suspected fraudulent purchases … and that's when I dumped my purse out and realized my wallet was gone."

The suspects are believed to have gone on a spending spree at a nearby mall.

Nadaud said there have been about $9,000 in fraudulent charges against her accounts.

Warren County Detective Jerry Niffenegger said the thieves involved in the Panera restaurant capers used similar methods.

While he made sure to point out the women are victims, he also said they're also somewhat to blame.

"People just need to be aware of their surroundings,” he said.

He offered a few useful tips to help safeguard against these types of experiences.

“If somebody runs into you, check your wallet, check your purse. If your purse is hanging on the back of a chair maybe don't do that, maybe put it between your legs, something like that, because they are definitely targeting your wallets."

Both Panera and Whole Foods are cooperating with police.

If you have any information, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at (513) 352-3040.

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