2 suspects arrested for stealing wallets from women at Scottsdale grocery stores

Police say the two suspects would talk to their victims to distract them, then steal wallets and phones from their purses.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:10 AM MST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 2:11 PM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) Two suspects are in custody after Scottsdale police say they targeted women at grocery stores to steal their property.

According to Scottsdale police, 26-year-old Ahzane Williams and 27-year-old Toniesha Odom would talk to the victims to distract them and then steal wallets and phones from their purses. The suspects would then reportedly use the stolen credit cards to buy high-value gift cards.

All four crimes happened over a short period of time on Saturday, Sept. 9. In the first incident at an Albertsons store at Scottsdale and Thomas roads, the victim reported that a woman distracted her with a conversation about different kinds of soup while she was turned away from her purse.

“I was in the Progresso soup aisle looking at the different varieties,” said Dianna Brouwer, who was shopping at her neighborhood grocery store when an unknown woman began striking up a conversation. “She would ask me my opinion of this variety of soup or this variety of soup,” Brouwer said. “Then it just so happened that coming down the aisle in the opposite direction was a friend of mine, and we recognized each other and started chatting.”

After the conversation was over about 10 minutes later, she realized several items were missing. She says that’s when she decided to look in her purse. “I don’t know, maybe I felt something and discovered that three items were taken out of my purse, and at least two of them were valuable items,” she said. Her valuable items included her phone and wallet with $50 inside. “It really impacted me. I thought, who could I have been so careless to have it loose in the cart and unzipped,” she said.

A similar situation was later reported at a Bashas’ store at Granite Reef Road and McDonald Drive when a woman’s wallet and iPhone were stolen from a shopping cart after a woman asked her how to make macaroni and cheese. The third theft happened at a Basha’s store near Hayden and Indian School roads. The victim told officers that a woman tried talking to her about candy several times as she was shopping. When she went to check out, she realized her wallet was missing from inside her purse.

At a Fry’s store near Indian School and Miller roads later that day, two wallets were stolen from a woman’s purse. After reviewing store surveillance video, police say Odom approached the woman and began a conversation while Williams took items from her purse that was in a shopping cart child seat.

Officers tracked two of the phones and pulled the suspects over in a shopping center. Williams and Odom were soon arrested. Police say additional credit cards, gift cards and IDs were found in the car, leading detectives to additional victims. That includes another similar theft at a store in Tempe earlier that day.

During an interview with investigators, Williams said she and Odom were from California and came to the area to visit her uncle. According to court documents, she said she found all the credit cards “at an unknown location and kept them for an unknown reason.” She also reportedly admitted to being unemployed and that she had multiple out-of-state arrests for theft and fraud. Both were booked into the Maricopa County jail for aggravated identity theft of three or more people.

Sgt. Allison Sempsis with Scottsdale Police describes it as a crime of opportunity. “All of our victims in this case are elderly females, so we just assume they were easy to distract by talking to them.” She says Williams and Odom would immediately use the stolen cash and credit cards to purchase large gift cards. Both were arrested just hours after Brouwer called police to report the theft. “I never thought, never gave it a thought that it would ever happen to me,” Brouwer said.

If you believe you were the victim of a similar crime in Scottsdale, police ask that you call the department’s non-emergency line at (480) 312-5000. If it happened in another part of the Valley, contact that city’s police department.

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