Woman suspected of scamming Pierce County businesses

Police say the woman claims her church needs a refund from items purchased from stores.

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Businesses in Pierce County are being scammed out of hundreds of dollars, and police say the suspect is claiming her church needs a refund.

Police say the thing that stands out about the woman is the information she has about employees before even going inside the store.

“This lady walked in and was like, ‘Can I talk to Rachael?’ I said, ‘I’m Rachael.’ She said, ‘I spoke to you.’”

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Rachael Pullen co-owns Sparks Firehouse Deli in Puyallup. She said she didn’t remember talking to the customer on the phone, but figured it was a misunderstanding because the woman knew her name.

“She’s like, yeah you did big luncheon for her church and supposedly our BLT we served her had cheese and she was in the hospital all night puking,” said Pullen.

The woman didn’t have a receipt, but Pullen felt bad.

“No matter what, my customers come first. So, I’m going to fix it,” said Pullen.

But after remaking the sandwiches and giving the woman a $200 refund, Pullen learned she was never even a customer.

“I was sick about it. I was like, ‘I can't believe I fell for that.’ You would think you wouldn't fall for it? You fall for it. You just want to make people happy, you know?” said Pullen.

It turned out that police said the same woman is tied to numerous scams. Surveillance video shows the woman in another store moments before she scammed it out of hundreds of dollars, according to police.

Puyallup police think the suspect has scammed at least five stores in Pierce County and she always seems to bring young children with her.

“And it’s the same story with everybody that you read online: It was a church function, a donation, food was bad,” said Pullen.

Customer Nate Brown said the worst part is that the woman is taking advantage of kind people – employees who are nice enough to give refunds without receipts.

“I mean it seems incredibly practiced. They know what strings, what stories to spin. It just feels disgusting,” said Brown.

Detectives said in one case, the suspect got away with $700. Pullen doesn’t think the woman will stop and hopes she is arrested before another business falls victim to the scam.

“Every penny matters when you're a small business,” said Pullen.

Detectives are asking for business owners and employees to watch for customers who want a refund but have no receipt.