WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) — Surveillance cameras were rolling as two so-called “quick change” artists stole more than $2,000 in cash and merchandise from a local store.
Westlake police say the man and woman caught on camera are a team of con artists, specializing in the sleight of hand, and their criminal skills were on full display at the Rite Aid at Dover Center and Center Ridge.
Westlake Police Captain Gerald Vogel told FOX 8, “they practice their trade a lot, and they’re good at it. It’s not only a psychological game, it’s physical game as well.”
Investigators say the two suspects pretended to be purchasing a variety of vitamins and supplements and Visa gift cards. They gave the clerk a total of $1,300 in cash in small bills, and then began an orchestrated effort to confuse and distract the clerk.
“It’s making the clerk comfortable with you, they make small talk, they distract them by asking various questions, maybe some stuff out of the blue when someone is trying to count money, they’ll ask them a question about something else about the register,” said Captain Vogel.
After the clerk counted the money, the couple attempted to confuse her by changing the value of the transaction and moving the stack of cash around the counter several times.
While the clerk was checking to make sure the bills were not counterfeit, the woman placed her hand on the remaining stack of cash on the counter and, using sleight of hand, was able to pick up $1,000 cash in the palm of her hand.
“She’s well-versed in what she’s doing, she’s obviously well-practiced,” said Captain Vogel.
The unsuspecting clerk had no idea that the couple left the store with the $1,300 in merchandise and $1,000 of the original $1,300 they placed on the counter.
“The theft was not found out until they counted the drawer later on,” said Captain Vogel.
Investigators say the same couple tried the same scam at a Rite Aid in neighboring North Olmsted, but they were turned away when the clerk became suspicious about the amount of the transaction.
Police believe the two suspects move from place to place around the country and for good reason.
“Probably thinking that if they’re in one place too long, they’re going to get identified and eventually arrested,” said Vogel.
Anyone with information about the suspects or their whereabouts is asked to call Westlake Police or Crime Stoppers.