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LINCOLNTON, N.C. — Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies have charged three women with stealing a purse and using credit cards from the purse to purchase gift cards. Deputies believe the women could be part of a larger group involving thefts across the Southeast.

On August 2nd, deputies were called to a Publix in Denver, N.C. where a customer told officers her purse was stolen from her grocery cart after she was distracted by another woman. The women accused of stealing the purse are also accused of going to a Walmart on Highway 73 where they reportedly used the stolen credit and debit cards from the purse to purchase Walmart gift cards, according to a news release.

A short time later, deputies say the suspects returned to Publix where they were confronted by the store manager. The women are accused of exiting the store and leaving behind a white Hyundai Sonata that was left running in the parking lot. Deputies were able to capture the women following a foot chase, according to a news release.

Deputies say they found approximately 300 gift cards with an estimated value of $200,000 after they searched the vehicle left running in the parking lot. While police were searching the vehicle, officers say three men showed up at the location attempting to claim the vehicle. The men were detained for questioning and deputies received consent to search the vehicle they were driving. Inside, deputies discovered several Western Union receipts in the vehicle where large amounts of money had been wired to Chile in South America. The vehicle was impounded because none of the men had a valid driver’s license, according to a news release.

The women were charged with larceny, obtaining property by false pretense, identity theft, and other charges. The men were not taken into custody. Deputies say they are now searching for the men after their investigation revealed all the suspects have been accused of committing the same type of crimes across the southeastern United States and three of the suspects are part of the South America Theft Group, according to authorities in Florida and Georgia.

Anyone with information on these suspects is asked to call 911.



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