More stores say they've been hit by teens after KIRO 7 report on employee wallet thefts

At least 11 employees at stores from Seattle’s Ballard and West Seattle neighborhoods, to Bellevue and Redmond, have reported in recent weeks having credit cards and cash stolen by teens who often enter businesses in groups, distracting clerks while going after purses and wallets behind counters and in areas designated only for employees.

KIRO 7 was contacted by the West Seattle Junction Association Wednesday after our Tuesday report about several Ballard businesses that were targeted.

The association said it had learned about two West Seattle stores, similar to the Ballard thefts, where employees last month had their credit cards and cash stolen from behind a cashier counter and from an employee back room.

“One of them kept me distracted,” said Alyson Hallberg, who works at Curious Kidstuff on California Avenue. Hallberg said her credit cards and cash were stolen February 8th.

“They had my cards for like 50 minutes before I got a text from my credit card company and they spent over a couple thousand dollars,” said Hallberg.

The West Seattle Junction Association shared with KIRO 7 video that showed one teenager bend down, apparently stealing Hallberg’s credit cards from behind the cashier’s counter, before leaving the store.

Hallberg said the teens had come into the store and said they wanted to buy a toy for a brother.

“I heard about Penny, who works up the street,” said Hallberg. “I mean, it was the same story right? And I’m like what the heck?”

Penny Winfield, who works at a business nearby along California Avenue, said several teens came into her store on February 20th. The first teen came alone, followed by two others.

“We’d been hiding our purses underneath this desk,” said Winfield, who showed KIRO 7 where her purse was hidden in a back room off limits to customers.

“They wanted me to be focused on them,” said Winfield, describing how two teens distracted her by playing with a mask for sale in the store.

Winfield said her daughter also saw KIRO 7’s Tuesday report and contacted her.

“You’ve got to see this, I’ve recorded this,” said Winfield, describing her daughter’s reaction. “It sounds so much like what happened to you.”

KIRO 7 also received additional surveillance video Wednesday from Marc Harpster, owner of Scout and Molly’s on Ballard Avenue, showing a group of teens inside his store.

Like other businesses we spoke with, Harpster said one of his employees was distracted by the teens, while “others stole from her purse in the back.”

Surveillance video showed one of the teens rummaging through a purse in a back room that he said belonged to an employee.

KIRO 7 asked Seattle police if detectives have connected the same teens to the employee credit card and cash thefts across Seattle and the Eastside but didn’t immediately receive an answer.

One thing certainly connects the victims – the feeling of being violated.

“Super disappointed, angry,” said Hallberg. “Hard lesson learned.”

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