Cops are on the hunt for a mild mannered, smooth talking teen who has been a one-man theft machine in the east Bronx.
He’s been stealing credit cards and valuables over the past month from unguarded purses in shops and restaurants along E. Tremont Avenue, and most recently in Westchester Square.
Cops believe the brazen thief is responsible for hitting at least seven – possibly more – locations since mid-April, striking up conversations saying he is waiting for his mother, then lifting credit cards and other valuables from unattended pocketbooks and counters.
He’s then runs up a string of charges on the stolen credit cards, including at a number of fast food joints.
In one case, he stole a wallet and car keys from a physical therapy office and stole the car, leaving it in Manhattan.
“This kid is cocky, I’ll tell you,” said one investigator on the case. “He’s walking about making conversation with people, making them feel comfortable, waiting for the moment.”
In most cases, the thief says he is waiting for his mother, said the police source. “Then he asks to use the bathroom, or goes into the back of the store and that’s when he hits, going into purses.”
The thief has been caught on closed-circuit video a few times, police said, and detectives on Tuesday began distributing a wanted poster with his photo to merchants up and down E. Tremont Avenue and in the Westchester Square area, where he struck Tuesday, May 14.
His victims described him as African-American, between 14 to 17 years old, 5-foot-9 to 6-feet tall with a thin build. He has usually worn a blue vest, with jeans and either white sneakers with red laces or black sneakers with blue trim.
Among the locations he’s hit were the Throggs Neck Clipper, a local carpet store, Frank Bee, the Scott Place Cafe, Throggs Neck Urgent Care, and the Mobil gas station at Bruckner Blvd. where he stole an attendant’s cell phone.
“In three cases, they just basically kicked him out,” said the police source. “When he was confronted at one store walking out with an umbrella, he told them ‘Hey, it’s just an umbrella.”
Ann Enright, a waitress at the Throgg Neck Clipper, recently had her checkbook pilfered by a person matching the suspect’s description.
She was working a party with other waitresses when a clean-cut young man matching the description came in and said he was waiting for his mother.
When she saw him entering their work station, she realized her purse was there.
“I looked through my purse and it looked fine to me, but an hour later one of the fellows came out of the men’s room with my check book in his hand.” said Enright. “I am assuming the young man thought it was a wallet and looked to take the money.”
The same young man returned another day, she said, sitting next to patrons who had money on the bar. But he was asked to leave when he said he was only 19.
“I wish I knew that he was going around all of the places, because I would have called the cops,” she said. “He is brazen, he is coming back to the places he got already.”
The young grifter also hit Scott Place Cafe at 3602 E. Tremont Avenue on Saturday, May 11, where he allegedly took a debit card out of a purse a worker had left in the kitchen.
The victim said he told the he was waiting for his mother.
“He was pacing back and forth, in and out of the kitchen twice, until I told him not to go in there,” she said.
He appeared to be speaking on his phone and made it seem like entering the kitchen was merely an accident because he was distracted by the conversation, she said.
Later, when she went next door to Rite Aid, she realized her wallet had been stolen.
“I was shocked,” she said. “He was very young, he does not look threatening, and he is dressed very nicely.”
The victim said the suspect used her credit card to charge $70 worth of food at an Allerton Avenue White Castle, and then paid a $99 cable bill in a nearby store, all within an hour, before she managed to cancel the card.