(SKOKIE) A Chicago woman suspected of pickpocketing purses and wallets from restaurant patrons in several suburbs has been charged with a Class X felony.
Stacy Blackwell, 28, is accused of stealing from purses hanging off the backs of chairs in area restaurants — a spot where most patrons feel their belongings are safe, Park Ridge Deputy Police Chief Lou Jogmen said.
The fast-moving scheme involved using victims’ credit cards at area stores to buy gift cards and merchandise, Jogmen said. One victim’s card was used at three different stores within 20 minutes, racking up $1,400 in purchases before it was declined, Jogmen said.
Police from 12 different jurisdictions came together last fall after restaurants in several municipalities started reporting pickpocketing incidents last September, according to a statement from Park Ridge police.
Authorities from Batavia, Oak Brook, Warrenville, Niles, Algonquin, Vernon Hills, Downers Grove and Champaign shared information about the thefts, Jogmen said. The investigation later identified Blackwell as a suspect in the ongoing scheme.
She was arrested last Tuesday, police said, and charged with one count of organizing a continuing financial crimes enterprise, a class X felony; and three counts of theft for incidents in Park Ridge, Jogmen said. Those three incidents involved $3,800 in losses to victims.
It was not immediately known if Blackwell will face charges in other jurisdictions.
Jogmen said restaurant patrons should keep their bags and purses in view at all times. He also recommended storing money and credit cards in a pocket instead of a purse.
“The only surefire way of securing your belongings is making sure it’s in front of you,” Jogmen said. “It needs to be in view or securely on your person.”
Blackwell, of the 4200 block of South Vincennes, was ordered held on a $30,000 bond and will next appear in court Jan. 29 in Skokie, court records show.