Teens targeting employee wallets at Ballard businesses

SEATTLE — Several Ballard businesses tell KIRO 7 they were recently targeted by teens who stole employee wallets and racked up thousands of dollars in credit card charges.

Charlene Drake, a longtime employee at Kitchen N Things on Market Street, said her wallet with credit cards and a cellphone were stolen last month from her purse that had been stashed away in the stockroom of the store where only employees are allowed.

“I was horrified and my mind started working; 'Who can it be, when did it happen?'" said Drake.

She said an answer came from an employee at a nearby consignment store who said several teens had come into that store and stole an employee’s wallet and also racked up charges by purchasing gift cards.

The consignment store shared surveillance video with KIRO 7 of the teens walking into the store midday and said one teen distracted clerks while another slipped into the back of the store.

Drake said she, too, had been distracted by a young teen who asked about kitchen appliances.

"I was thinking at the time, ‘You're not the usual type of kitchen mixer customer,'” said Drake.

The consignment store employee’s wallet was later found by a woman at the gas station across the street.

"They'd come in here and they were all the way back here and just kind of looking around,” said Harold Hezel, owner of Market Street Spirit. He said the wallet was found after the teens left the gas station.

"That takes a lot of guts,” said Hezel. “Usually people like that will hit one place then they'll go somewhere else, hit another place, but not hit a neighborhood all at once."

KIRO 7 also spoke with a volunteer, Julie Pheasant-Albright, at ReStyle for Ryther Thrift Shop on Ballard Avenue who said she too had a run in with a group of teens who came into the store last month with the same M.O.

Pheasant-Albright said a fellow volunteer had her wallet stolen that day from behind the cashier’s counter.

"This is a children's charity,” said Pheasant-Albright. “This is not the Ballard I know.”

KIRO 7 has reported recently on similar thefts in Redmond and Bellevue where teens targeted employee wallets at businesses using the same distraction methods.

Seattle police confirmed officers were investigating at least one of the Ballard thefts but couldn’t immediately say whether detectives believe the suspects were connected to the thefts on the Eastside or whether any arrests had been made.

“It’s scary to know we're that susceptible and it can happen any day,” said Drake. “There’s definitely a trend here and they have found that they can get away with it, so we’re going to have to be very careful.”

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