"Felony Lane Gang" continues to target women across Florida

10:12 PM, Oct 8, 2012   |    comments
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SEBRING, Florida - The crimes are sometimes caught on tape, crooks smashing through car windows to steal an unattended purse and everything inside.

"The driver's license, Social Security numbers, check books," Det. Brian Van Fleet of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.

Within minutes, the gang members are using the stolen credit cards. Weeks later, they clean out the victim's bank account.

"I wouldn't know what to do. It's pretty scary," said Sebring resident Norma Turner from one of the parking lots hit back in September.

"I do tend to leave it," said Ruth Roman, who admits her purse would have been the perfect target on this night.

"It's a big ol' thing," said Roman, showing 10 News her purse out in the open on her front seat. "Right there. It's not even hidden."

The "Felony Lane Gang" got its name because suspects use the bank's drive-thru lane furthest from the teller. The crooks often conspire with prostitutes and homeless women, dressing them up in wigs to look like the victim's I.D. Five new cases have been reported over the past month along U.S. 27 in Sebring. All were at fitness centers frequented by women.

"If it's anything like my wife, my wife likes to leave her ID in the car, her purse in the car," said Detective Van Fleet. "She likes to run in, take a quick 45-minute class, and doesn't want to have the hassle of taking her purse or pocket book in there."

Police across the state have made numerous arrests, including three suspected in cases out of Polk County. Even so, the ring of crime continues. Detective Van Fleet said there's an easy fix.

"Lock your purse up in the truck and keep it out of sight."

The Highlands County Sheriff's Office is distributing posters warning women to hide their belongings so they don't become victims of this growing trend.

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