Charlotte police probe thefts from store customers

The Associated Press

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CHARLOTTE — Authorities in Charlotte say a multistate theft ring is stealing wallets and credit cards from customers at Whole Foods markets and Panera Bread cafes.

The Charlotte Observer reports that a search warrant says members of a South American ring spend thousands of dollars with the stolen credit cards. Police said the thieves often buy gift cards, which are difficult to trace.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have been investigating the thefts since September. The department has also been in contact with detectives in a Colorado town who are two months into their own statewide investigation of similar thefts.

Officer B.C. Kipp says the local investigation has identified several groups of men and women who have victimized residents in Charlotte, and states including Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Kentucky and Colorado.