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Charges: Woman, Husband Track Down Purse Thief

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) – After a day of skiing at Buck Hill, a Twin Cities couple came out to the parking lot to a disturbing sight. The window to their vehicle had been smashed and a woman’s Coach purse and wallet were missing. A seemingly common crime anywhere in America, but with a less than common response.

The victims quickly reported the theft to Burnsville police and then called their credit card companies to cancel the stolen accounts. Soon after, they learned that unauthorized charges were already showing up from a nearby shopping center.

That’s when the husband and wife decided to swing by Burnsville Center, which was on their way to the police station. They were playing a hunch that the suspected thief was nearby, using the credit cards to make purchases at Macy’s and T-Mobile.

“People doing this type of crime know that they have to act fast because (credit cards) will eventually get declined. So they’re going to do as much as they can, as quick as they can,” said Sgt. Rory Bochniak.

Bochniak’s assessment was dead on. Call it fate or just plain dumb luck — the alleged thief was standing outside the T-Mobile store where a clerk had just denied her $600 transaction.

That’s when the victim’s husband spotted the woman, identified as 37-year-old Jennifer Elizabeth Martin, holding what he was certain was his wife’s stolen purse.

The husband confronted Martin outside the T-Mobile store and began asking questions about where she got the purse. After becoming increasingly suspicious, he grabbed the hat off her head and went inside the store. A T-Mobile clerk identified the hat as worn by the same person who had just tried to use the stolen credit card.

At that point, mall security noticed the confrontation and arrived on scene. They would later track down video of Martin inside the nearby Macy’s. Store video captured Martin in the act of using the stolen credit card to purchase clothing totaling $245.71 worth of goods.

Police arrested Martin, who is now charged with three felony counts of identity theft and fraud. A crime largely solved due to a victim’s quick actions.

“They wasted no time and that’s what helped this crime get solved,” Sgt. Bochniak said. “If they had waited until they got home, we wouldn’t be where we are now with somebody in custody.”

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