Costumed band diverts attention to commit thefts

August 09, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

They are a unique brand of female thieves, some with rings through their noses, some with rings through their belly buttons. And they seem to be on a lucky streak, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from stores throughout the East Coast.

State police launched a search for the wily thieves yesterday, after several more sightings by Maryland merchants and the recovery of empty money bags from their latest heist -- taking about $150,000 from an Allegany County Wal-Mart store.

"They've wreaked havoc across Pennsylvania, Maryland and the rest of the East Coast. These people -- we call them gypsies because they are rogue-and-vagabond-type people -- are very good at what they do," said Cpl. Robert Wininger of the Maryland State Police barracks near Cumberland.

The band -- about a dozen strong, most of them appearing by their costumes to be women -- looted $150,420 in cash from the Wal-Mart store in LaVale Sunday. While several women diverted employees' attention, others pried open a cash office door and stole the money, authorities said.

Pennsylvania state police recovered the empty Wal-Mart money bags yesterday from a truck stop about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, off Interstate 79, Corporal Wininger said. The money was missing and all that remained in the bags were a few checks, he said.

The bags were discovered by a truck stop cleaning crew dumping out garbage cans. Police said they were reviewing surveillance tapes taken by a truck stop's video camera to see if they can get a better fix on what the thieves look like.

Descriptions from merchants vary, but generally, the band is comprised of young women with long black hair, with dark complexions and possibly South American accents. Often they are dressed in halter tops and long skirts.

Another trademark of the women is the large amount of jewelry they wear -- including hoop earrings and nose and belly button rings.

Corporal Wininger said the women have been spotted riding in a "caravan" of three cars.

"They've been going from town to town," said Corporal Wininger, adding that they are believed to have stolen several thousand dollars from a SuperFresh store in Hancock the same day as the Wal-Mart theft.

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