GUNNISON—An Aurora woman was the victim of what is known as a two-person distraction theft threat earlier this month in the Gunnison Valley Market parking lot. A sizeable amount of cash and credit cards were taken, resulting in a loss of up to $18,500.
Police are warning local residents to be wary such schemes. Sgt. Tyler Donaldson said he believes the people who robbed the Aurora woman, Susan Bagley, “are part of a large group that are doing these things based out of Utah County,” he said.
Bagley said she had taken her husband, Bob, to a physical therapist in Gunnison. While he was at the clinic, she made a trip to the grocery store. By 9:45 a.m., she had paid for her groceries and loaded them into her car.
“I went back to the physical therapist, picked up Bob, and we headed for home,” she said.
While on their way home, Susan said they stopped in at Barrett’s in Salina. When she took her wallet out of her purse and unzipped it to pay, she realized her credit debit cards were missing along with all her cash.
“I don’t usually carry a lot of cash, but I had just made a significant withdrawal the day before and still had it in my wallet,” she said. “I was absolutely shocked…just sick!”
Susan immediately called her bank to alert them about her debit and credit cards and called Costco to cancel that credit card.
Later she determined that four purchases had been made at the Spanish Fork Costco between 10:59 a.m. and 11:05 a.m. and three more purchases at the Orem Costco at noon. The purchases added up to $12,043.
“That’s fast work, since they didn’t leave Gunnison until about 9:55 a.m.,” she said. The Gunnison Valley Police Department has since learned that a $194 purchase at Gap in Orem was denied at 12:28 pm.
“That day seemed like a bad nightmare, but when I woke up the next morning, I knew it wasn’t just a bad dream,” she said. “It really happened—I was robbed.”
She tried to think of a time when she had even set her purse down.
“I carry it on my shoulder wherever I go,” she said.
When? Where? Who? How? She thought back to the Gunnison Market parking lot. She said that after she put her groceries in the back of her Explorer, set her purse on the seat and was ready to climb in when a lady approached her and asked if she could give her some directions to get to the “main highway.”
“She was a pretty Latino lady in her late 20s, early 30s and spoke with broken English,” Susan said.
The lady showed Susan her phone and wanted her to show on the map how to get to I-15. Susan said that the lady kept zooming in and out, losing the map, acting confused, and asking a lot of questions.
“When I look back on it, she did anything she could to take more time, all while I was standing with my back turned to her partner-in-crime, who was stealing from me as she was moving me away from the front door toward the back of my Explorer,” she said.
The woman finally told Susan that she understood. She said, “Thank you, ma’am, for your kindness and help. Have a very good day!”
The Gunnison Valley Police Department was able to get the camera footage at Costco, which shows a male and a female with three children wearing masks and hoodies going through the self-checkout lane purchasing iMac computers and iPads.
“Such a fun shopping trip,” Susan said. “All in just a few minutes over two hours from Gunnison to the last purchase.”
Susan checked in on her bank account again a week later to make sure that her credit card account was closed. Zions Bank told her while at the bank they had shut her card down and that there had been no activity on it that day.
But apparently the bank didn’t act quite soon enough. “Apparently the crooks were in Sam’s Club buying three more computers and the transaction was in progress for just over $6,400” by the time she visited the bank, she said.
Because Bagley reported her credit cards stolen promptly, she won’t be responsible for most of the charges.
Donaldson said that even with the video coverage, police are not able to make a positive identification at this time.
He said while a vehicle had been found in Salina and impounded due to a similar incident, there have been no arrests and there is no proof that the two incidents are related.
Donaldson’s advice is to not to leave your purse or wallet unattended for one minute.
“If someone walks up to you that needs assistance, place your purse on your shoulder or keep your hands on it,” he said. “These people are working with a partner, and they are doing it while you’re within reach of it.”
Those people that are taking your cards and cash know that “time is ticking,” Donaldson said, and they are fast to spend every cent they can before the cards are shut off.
Susan said that she learned five lessons through this: Don’t help anyone who appears to need help; go to the market on horseback (it’s faster); always travel with a guard dog; don’t ever carry cards or cash with you in public; and get eyes in the back of your head.
“Does it sound impossible?” she asked. “It is, especially the first one, because life is all about helping others.”