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LAPD identifies 'baby stroller bandits' wanted for victimizing shopping moms

June 24, 2011 |  7:26 am

Two women dubbed the "baby stroller bandits" have been identified as professional pickpockets suspected of lifting wallets from mothers shopping in downtown Los Angeles, police said Friday.

Bertha Dona Vargas, 55, of West Covina, and Norma Lizette Reyes, 51, of Silver Lake, are believed to have struck half a dozen times since late April around 5th and Los Angeles streets and to the north in the Fashion District, LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon said.

On Wednesday, police served search warrants at both their residences, but the women were not home and could be "holed up with relatives or friends in the area," Vernon said.

The suspects were identified by tips that poured in after police released images of the women. Vernon said the women are believed to be "professional pickpockets and thieves."

According to police, the women act as a team with one distracting and blocking the victim's view while the other quickly lifts wallets out of purses that have been placed in baby strollers.

Police released an image from surveillance video taken at a swap meet in the 500 block of South Los Angeles Street, showing two women looking at a mother with a 23-month-old toddler in a stroller.

One woman makes an unsuccessful try to get a wallet out of the woman's purse, which is hanging off the stroller. A few minutes later, the suspect tries again as her accomplice blocks the victim's view.

"Vargas, the one seen taking the wallet, had been arrested for the exact thing we saw on the video," Vernon said. "I guess it's a matter of crooks can't change their MO any more than a leopard can change its spots."

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Det. Mike Mazzacano at (213) 972-1231.

Those wishing to remain anonymous may call Crimestoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (222-8477) or text 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S) via cellphone. Text messages should begin with the letters "LAPD."

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Video credit: LAPD via YouTube

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