These Undercover Cops Know a Scam When They See One

Suspect accused of using stolen credit card to sell gas at half-price, police say

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    Police say a suspected purse thief offered half-price gas to the wrong customers.

    A suspected purse thief was arrested Wednesday in Fort Worth after he offered to sell gas at half-price -- using the victim’s stolen credit card, police said.

    The suspect made the half-price offer to two undercover narcotics detectives who happened to be filling up their unmarked car, police said.

    Undercover Officers Nab Suspected Purse Thief

    [DFW] Undercover Officers Nab Suspected Purse Thief
    Police say a suspected purse thief offered half-price gas to the wrong customers. (Published Friday, Oct. 16, 2009)

    Erma Mathis, 73, of Arlington, was shopping at her neighborhood grocery store when she realized her purse had disappeared from the cart where she had placed it.

    "There were people all around me there,” she said. “I looked around and thought, 'Which one of these took it? I don't see anyone who looks like they would have taken my purse!'"

    But she said she quickly realized it had been stolen.

    "(I) couldn't even write a check for the groceries,” she said. “(I) had to put all the groceries back."

    A short time later, at a gas station on East Lancaster Street, two Fort Worth narcotics officers in plain clothes were filling up their car, when another customer made an unusual offer: Gas for half-price.

    "We were like, 'What do you mean?'” the officer said. “He was like, 'Pull up behind the car. Half-priced gas!'"

    The officer said he and his partner knew it must be a scam and decided to investigate.

    "(It was) right place at the right time," he said.

    Michael Hall, 25, was arrested with Mathis’ credit card and driver’s license, police said. He faces a charge of credit card abuse.

    "Our narcotics officers are taught to be aware of any criminal activity even though their focus is drug enforcement,” Sgt. Chad Mahaffey said. "This is good police work."

    Mathis said she is grateful to the officers.

    "Oh, I praise them,” she said. “They were so heroic. They really were. They really stood up for me and helped me out so much."

    Officers returned her credit cards and license, but her purse and glasses are still missing. She said she assumes the thief threw the items away before he was arrested.