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Friday, October 14, 2016

"Smash and Grab" Crime Gang Back In Fort Thomas

The Fort Thomas Dog Park has been the scene for "smash and grab" crimes that Fort Thomas Police attributes to the "Felony Lane Gang." FTM file.  

On Saturday, September 3, Fort Thomas resident David Thompson said that he was leaving the Fort Thomas dog park when he noticed two cars with smashed windows.

"I had my dogs at the park and two cars were damaged by thieves. This has happened before. One woman lost her purse, credit cards and $100. Two cars had windows broken. Nobody heard or saw anything," said Thompson. "It's sad that our community has to worry about this. The police officer commented told us that these thieves, 'keep coming back here.'" 

He didn't know it then, but according to Fort Thomas Police Lt., Rich Whitford, those "smash and grab" thefts were crimes attributed to a well-known crime crew, known as the "Felony Lane Gang."

It's not the first time this crime syndicate has been to Fort Thomas.

Fort Thomas Matters first reported in February 2015 that the Felony Lane Gang had struck the city.

Chief Mike Daly told FTM that a January 21, 2015 incident was attributed to the gang.

"Multiple vehicles had their windows smashed out again at the dog park. The victims were robbed of goods inside the cars, which were ironically unlocked," said Daly during a February 2015 city council meeting.

RELATED: Fort Thomas City Council Roundup (February 2015)

This year, the gang has struck Fort Thomas three times. Twice at the Highland Park on September 3 and September 10 and at Tower Park on September 9.

Whitford said the gang originated in Florida and makes their way up the east coast each year and that one credit card that was stolen had been used in Missouri.

"They are looking for purses and the valuables inside," said Whitford. “They set up shop for a few days and do surveillance and are targeting generally female victims. It's very difficult to catch unless you catch them in act because they commit the crimes and leave."

He said said they walk to places where there are a lot of cars and use a small tool to shatter the window and the crime literally takes seconds.

So what can you do?

"Hide your valuables and keep them out of sight or with you," said Whitford. "If your purse is in view where someone can see it when they are walking by, you could be a target for them."

The gang is a national crime group known as the "Felony Lane Gang," a name given to the group whose members use the farthest bank drive-thru lane to cash in stolen checks with stolen IDs.

According to the Felony Lane Gang Task Force: 

The Felony Lane Gang has been operating for years, raking in millions of dollars with criminal activity that crosses multiple state lines. 

Members of the Felony Lane Gang are normally based in south Florida and from there travel the country in rental vehicles; they target gyms, parks, daycare centers, and sporting events likely to be frequented by women and increasing the chances of finding purses left in vehicles; they conduct surveillance at these locations and unlawfully enter vehicles through unlocked doors or by using a window punch to break the window of a locked vehicle; and they specifically look for identification such as driver licenses, checks, and debit cards.

The suspects then recruit females who are normally prostitutes and/or drug addicts to assume the identities of the theft victims in order to cash stolen checks belonging to other victims. The suspects normally supply the recruited check cashers with wigs in order to create a physical appearance similar to that of the victims whose identification was stolen. The check cashers normally use the farthest drive through lane from the bank building to conduct the fraudulent transactions, hence the group earning the nickname as the Felony Lane Gang.

Be alert of where they are and where they are traveling. They have multiple groups working in different parts of the state. Please ensure anyone who has children check this page, understand what these criminals are watching for and learn how to prevent becoming a victim... Stay Alert and be able to provide timely information to law enforcement in hopes of catching these crooks and deterring future felony lane operations.

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