From Maryland State Police:
Maryland State Police have arrested two people and are obtaining warrants for two more who are accused of stealing credit cards from older women while they were using interstate rest rooms in Harford and Cecil counties.
The accused are identified as Ishia B. Cason, 31, and Yvette A. Jones, 46, both of Baltimore, Md. Both Cason and Jones are charged with using/possessing credit card issued to another, identity theft, theft over $10,000, fraud and forgery. Jones is also charged on a bench warrant from Washington County for failure to appear for trial on similar offenses. Both women are each being held on $150,000 bail.
State Police are obtaining warrants for two additional suspects who include a female and male from Baltimore. The male is currently incarcerated on an unrelated charge.
Both Cason and Jones were arrested on March 4, 2011, after Maryland State Police from the JFK Highway Barrack, with the assistance of officers from the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore County Police Department served search warrants at their homes. Police recovered two fur coats, three large flat screen televisions, video game systems and accessories, jewelry, gift cards, dozens of pairs of shoes, clothing, a laptop computer, prescription glasses, and multiple store receipts documenting purchases with stolen credit cards. Police also recovered a 2004 Porsche and a 2007 Toyota Camry that were believed to have been used in the commission of these crimes.
The current charges against the suspects involve three victims, all of whom are women in their sixties who had their credit cards stolen while using the rest rooms at either the Maryland House on I-95 in Harford County, or the Chesapeake House, on I-95 in Cecil County, in December 2010, January 2011, and February 2011. The victims reported they entered a bathroom stall and either hung their pocketbook on a hook on the right side of the stall, set it on the floor, or placed it behind them on the toilet.
Although the suspects are currently charged in thefts involving three victims, Maryland State Police are investigating a number of other similar thefts. Investigators believe the thieves work as a team, with a lookout on the parking lot spotting potential victims as they enter the rest area buildings. The lookout provides a description to the thieves inside, one or more of whom are in the rest room. Those thieves often pose as rest area employees who meet the intended victim in the bathroom and actually guide her to a stall by saying the one she was headed to is broken, or opening the stall door to show her it is available.
Once the woman is inside, the team creates a diversion, often by knocking on the stall door. While the woman’s attention is focused on the door, the other suspect reaches into the stall and steals her wallet. Sometimes only credit cards and cash are removed. Sometimes the entire wallet and/or purse are removed. Often, the victim is unsure if she brought her pocketbook into the restroom and may be miles down the interstate before she realizes something is wrong.
Through investigation and evidence examination, State Police believe the suspects then immediately used the stolen credit cards to make multiple purchases of gift cards and the other items found during the search warrants. The purchases were usually made before the victims realized their credit cards had been stolen, or at least before they were able to report the thefts to their credit card companies.
State Police are urging travelers to be aware of this and other types of ruses criminals may use. If possible, women should leave pocket books, or at least their wallets and charge cards, locked in the trunk of their vehicles when stopping at rest areas. If they need those items for purchases while at the rest area, they should keep those items on their person, such as carrying them in a pocket of their clothing. These thieves used an obvious opportunity and a diversion to victimize travelers.
Also, persons should be aware of people speaking to them at locations like this to determine if they are actually employees of the rest area. Employees will usually have name plates and some type of uniform. The thieves in these cases wore regular street clothes and had no name plates or employment identification. If someone thinks they have been approached by an individual posing as an employee, they should report the incident to the rest area management immediately.
As always, motorists are reminded to also keep all valuables locked in the trunk or completely out of sight in their vehicles. This includes GPS devices, laptops, cash, wallets, and pocketbooks. Maryland State Police are working with the management company that oversees both rest areas on I-95 in northern Maryland to implement crime prevention measures and reduce opportunities for thefts and other crimes.
This investigation is continuing and additional charges are possible.