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‘Makes me sick:’ Detectives search for crime syndicate pickpocketing Costco shoppers

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local crime syndicate is targeting customers at big box stores up and down the I-5 corridor, according to authorities.

Portland police detectives are investigating a series of pickpocketing incidents — most recently at Costco parking lots in the metro area — and are asking the public’s help to identify more victims and to keep a lookout for the suspects.

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A recent surveillance video shows a 93-year-old man pushing his cart out of a Costco in Portland when three men start trailing behind him, eventually snatching his wallet from his back pocket.

The victim in this case told KOIN 6 he really hopes police catch the crime ring.

“It’s so devastating when you lose everything in your wallet,” he said. “Then you have to go through the process of replacing your drivers license and other important cards.”

Portland Police Detective Jordan Zaitz is trying to track down the thieves.

“It makes me sick,” she said. “They’re out there hunting for people’s identity, stolen credit cards, and it’s people who probably don’t even realize that it’s happening or not until much later. And so they’re able to get away with it.”

Police are searching for three men accused of pickingpocketing customers at local big box stores. (KOIN)

In this 93-year-old victim’s case, Zaitz said he checked out of Costco at 5 pm, made it home at 5:30 pm, and by the time he called Visa and MasterCard, the thieves already used their cards at Fred Meyer.

“They were able to walk away with just about $1,500 worth of gift cards that they can use later, Zaitz said. “They’re pretty organized. “I think this is something that they’ve been doing for a really long time.”

Portland police have confirmed pickpocketing attempts at Costcos in Portland and Tigard, plus in Washington towns such as Kirkland, Puyallup, Tukwila and Lynnwood.

Police know there are more unknown victims out there.

“We had a woman who was loading her car with the purchased items, her purse was in there and they went up and got her wallet. I have that on video, but I’m still not sure who the victim is. She’s never made that police report,” Zaitz said. “One of the things that’s important to me is finding out if there were people who had their purses or wallets stolen while at a Costco, at a Walmart, at a Safeway, anywhere really. And if we can possibly link it up to this group.”

If anyone lost their wallet, contact Portland police, so they can track down surveillance footage.

“The sooner the better because video is only held for so long, and I’d like to be able to charge them with as many crimes as they’ve committed,” Zaitz said, as she warns shoppers to stay vigilant.

“Have your head on a swivel when you’re out in the parking lots, even when you’re inside stores, don’t leave your purse on the back of your chair. Keep it in your lap or in front of you,” she said. “When you’re unloading your groceries, put your purse in your car first and then unload your groceries or just have it on you. If you’re a man with a wallet in your back pocket, button it and just be aware.”

According to police, the suspected thieves are three well-dressed Romanian men.

One is a 4-foot-9, 18-year-old. The other thieves are in their 30s, ranging in height from 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-10. They drive a 2005 Toyota Sienna van with a temporary Texas license plate.

If you think you’re a victim contact Detective Jordan Zaitz: [email protected]

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