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Woman Accused Of Stealing Purse From Church

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By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV

HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — Hopkins police are looking for a woman they say stole a volunteer’s purse from a local church office and went on a $3,000 spending spree. Criminal charges have been filed against 33-year-old Ariane Michelle Swanson of Minneapolis.

Police say surveillance videos show Swanson using the  victim’s checking account to buy a $1,000 flat-screen television from a Sam’s Club in Maple Grove back in January. That same day, they say she made several other expensive purchases and bought gift cards at a Walgreen’s in Golden Valley. Those cards were then used to get a room that night at the Hyatt Hotel in Minneapolis.

“She decided she is going to have a fun evening, checking into a hotel, all courtesy of the victim,” said Hopkins Sgt. Michael Glassberg.

Sgt. Glassberg said Swanson’s spending spree started after she allegedly stole a purse from an office at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church. She stopped in the church claiming to be there to use the bathroom, said Glassberg.

“She was confronted by an employee who did not recognize her and became concerned and asked her to leave,” said Glassberg.

By the time the volunteer realized her purse was missing, police say Swanson had already racked up thousands of dollars in purchases using the victim’s credit cards and checking account.

Police tracked down videos of the purchases, and working with neighboring police agencies, they developed Swanson as a suspect.

Pastor John Nelson said the theft is a reminder that even sacred places aren’t always a safe haven from crime.

“As a community of faith we struggle. We want to be open to the community at large but also need to be aware about protecting ourselves,” he said.

Police say Swanson has a lengthy criminal history. Anyone who knows her whereabouts is asked to call 911.

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