Police: Sneaky Purse Thieves Arrested Near Northeast Mall

Duo stole billfolds out of unsuspecting shoppers' purses, police say

Police say an undercover operation led to the arrests of two women who are suspected of stealing billfolds from shoppers’ purses over the past year near a Hurst mall.

One of the women would strike up a conversation and distract the victims, while the second one would reach into the victims' purses and grab their billfolds, police said.

"We've had a pattern of crimes known as 'distraction thefts' that date back to 2007,” said Hurst police Sgt. Craig Teague.

Investigators noticed a pattern as the crimes picked up the last few months, and undercover officers set up surveillance around a strip shopping center across the street from Northeast Mall, Teague said.

On Saturday, the officers spotted Carlotta Barnes, 39, of Garland, and Lesia Bell, 36, of Carrollton, going into Jo-Ann, a fabric and craft store, on Pipeline Road.

Georgia Walton, 72, of Saginaw, was shopping inside.

"They came up to me, and they said, 'What do you think about this material?'" Walton said. "The material they were going to make the skirt out of was a lime green. And I thought to myself, 'Maybe that's their taste, you know.'"

Walton said she offered the women her opinion, and they left.

"And they said, 'You have just been so helpful to us. Thank you so much,'" Walton said. “And I said, 'Well, you're welcome.'"

Police stopped Barnes and Bell as they drove away from the store. Officers found Walton’s billfold inside the women's Mercedes sport utility vehicle, Teague said.

Police then returned to the store and found Walton, who was still shopping.

"The officer says, 'Miss Walton, do you know where your billfold is?'” Walton said. “And I said, 'Yes, it's in my purse.' And I opened my purse to get it, and I said, 'It's gone.'"

Detectives are investigating whether Barnes and Bell are responsible for a series of similar distraction thefts across North Texas.

"I was really shocked because they were such nice ladies,” Walton said. “I mean, I was just trying to be helpful."

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