SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two suspects have been arrested by Scottsdale police for allegedly stealing wallets from elderly shoppers at local grocery stores.
Ahzane Williams, 26, and Toniesha Odom, 27 are facing charges of aggravated identity theft after they were tied to multiple incidents in Scottsdale that occurred on Sept. 9.
Police said the suspects would target elderly women and find ways to distract them so they could steal the victims' personal property.
One of those victims is Dianne Brouwer.
“Progresso soup was on sale and I was going to buy some cans to give to our food bank at the church," Brouwer said.
She was in the soup aisle at Albertsons near Scottsdale and Thomas roads. As she shopped to help those less fortunate, her kindness was taken advantage of.
“A woman came up from my right and started asking me about the Progresso soup. And she would say, 'What do you think of this variety of soup?' And 'what about this one? Will you like this one?' And and I, you know, I would answer and say 'yes, that's a good one', or 'that's a good one,'" Brouwer said.
What Brouwer did not realize was while she was talking to that stranger, another woman was going through her purse.
“I had this awful feeling that something had happened. And looking in my purse, there was a lot of empty space," Brouwer said.
Her wallet, phone and a bag of personal items were gone. Store employees called police, but the two women were gone, too.
“It is definitely a crime of opportunity," said Sgt. Allison Sempsis, a public information officer with the Scottsdale Police Department.
Scottsdale police responded and as they were talking to Brouwer, more calls came in. The other thefts occurred at stores near these locations:
- Granite Reef Road and McDonald Drive
- Hayden and Indian Bend roads
- Miller and Indian School roads
Police said the suspects would use the stolen wallets to buy gift cards.
Surveillance footage collected from one of the stores allegedly shows Odom approaching a shopper and starting a conversation, while Williams allegedly took items out of the victim's purse.
The two suspects were detained during a traffic stop. Officers allegedly found in their car gift cards and ID cards of other potential victims.
"All of our victims at this time were elderly females, but it can happen to anyone," Sempsis said.
As for Brouwer, she did get her phone and wallet back but is still missing her bag of personal items which contained something worth more than its price tag.
"It was a powder compact. I never used it for powder. But there was a mirror in it. And it had a very pretty cover, kind of like red roses and flowers on it. It had been a high school graduation gift from very dear aunt and uncle and family and that emotionally that really bothered me," Brouwer said.
Brouwer said she is using this incident as a warning and is encouraging the community to do the same.
“It just goes to show that we have to be more cautious than we think we need to be," Brouwer said.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this scheme can contact Scottsdale police at 480-312-5000.
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