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Victim's sleuthing leads to 3 arrests in F-M purse-snatching

MOORHEAD – A woman is being credited for the arrest of an alleged purse thief and his two accomplices after confronting him, then using her own credit card information to track him down for police.

According to court documents filed against three people in Clay County District Court last week, the victim told Moorhead police officers responding to her theft call last Wednesday that she confronted a man who stole her purse at the CVS pharmacy in Fargo, following him out into the parking lot as he got into his car.

She said the man denied taking her purse, so she tried to stop him by reaching into his white Audi and taking his keys. She noticed he had a skeleton tattoo on his arm and wore a white tank top-style undershirt. There were other people in the car, she told police, including two children.

Her attempt to seize his keys didn’t deter the alleged thief, who kept driving. The woman told police she hung on for about 20 feet before being thrown to the ground, hitting her head.

She contacted her credit card company to cancel the cards while at the hospital. That was when she discovered the cards were being used across the river in Moorhead.

Court documents state Moorhead officers were dispatched about 4:20 p.m. that day to the Target at 3301 Highway 10 E. They saw the plateless white Audi at the nearby Perkins restaurant and found a 47-inch flat-screen TV still in its box and several loose credit cards clutched in the driver’s hand with the victim’s name on them.

Justin Samual Rivett Goldstein, 24, no know address, was arrested for possession of the stolen credit cards.

Crouching in the bushes nearby was another man who officers heard on the phone ordering truck parts for delivery. He was holding a Bank of America credit card with the victim’s name on it.

The man on the phone, Wayward Kenneth David Townsend, 42, was also arrested, as was a woman in the car, Sylvia Rose White, 26, who told officers she had an opiate addiction. There is no known address for Townsend and White.

Court documents state officers found thousands of dollars more in freshly purchased merchandise from Target in the car and in the woman’s purse, which they found in the truck. Officers state they also found drug paraphernalia and one of the children pulled a large fixed-blade hunting knife out of the passenger side back pocket.

All three people arrested face criminal charges, including financial transaction card fraud, receiving stolen property, both felonies, and endangerment of children, a gross misdemeanor.

“Because of the real-time info, this is a credit to her for doing that part of it … the most helpful part,” said Moorhead police Lieutenant Tory Jacobson of the arrests. “[Otherwise] we would have had to go through court for credit card info.”

Despite his praise for the victim’s initiative in sleuthing out her credit cards’ whereabouts, Jacobson stopped short of recommending confronting a thief. In this case, the woman was hurt.

“That’s why we can’t recommend it, the wide range of possibilities … different perpetrators, different victims,” Jacobson said. “With the wrong combination, someone could get really hurt.”

Emily Welker, INFORUM

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