As she gathered a bunch, authorities said, someone reached over the stall's door and took cash and credit cards from the purse she had hung there. It wasn't until she stopped at other stores that she realized her cards were missing. She would later find that the thieves had bought thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise with the cards.
Authorities say the theft was one of dozens perpetrated by Ida Mae Snipe and a crew that is believed to have been targeting women's public restrooms for years. According to a warrant application to search a car allegedly used in the scheme, the thieves worked in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
After making off with the cards, Snipe and the others would take turns charging hundreds of dollars to the victim's credit cards at a store, the document says. Police say they've seen this scheme before, and it's one that can strike victims when they are at their most vulnerable.
In such cases, the suspects can be hard to catch. They work quickly, and often victims don't realize anything has been taken until well after the theft. Cpl. Cathy Batton, a
Snipe was hit with federal bank fraud indictments in August 2011 but was not arrested until Dec. 30 last year, when authorities caught up with her in Baltimore County. All the while, she and others continued to steal cards for cash, according to court documents.
Snipe's attorney, W. Scott Hannon, declined to comment.
Police said Snipe and others would wait at stores, including the
Inside a bathroom stall in the Target restroom, the victim encountered a woman who complained about the state of the stall, again asking for toilet paper, the documents state. It was not until the victim returned home that she realized what had happened. More than $200 had been charged to her SunTrust card within 20 minutes after she left the store.
Court documents say the group made purchases throughout the day with the victim's credit cards — one purchase was for $2,354, another for $1,377. In all, police said, $4,220.91 was charged — mostly as Visa and
Detectives reviewed the store's security camera footage and identified three others, including Nicole Roles, who allegedly used the victim's card to make purchases.
She faces charges in Baltimore County. Her public defender, Donald Zaremba, declined to comment.
Baltimore County police have also charged Charles Blevins in the theft scheme; he declined to comment when reached by phone.
There are no state or federal charges listed against the other people named in court documents related to the arrest.
When the group returned to the Pikesville Target on Dec. 27, store security workers alerted police. The guards also provided police with a vehicle description and tag number for a white Nissan, and police found an address for the car's owner through Motor Vehicle Administration records.
Snipe and Roles were arrested three days later in the Nissan, in which police said they could see numerous gift cards.
Officers searched Roles, finding gift cards wrapped in a Sears receipt that police said was purchased using a stolen Discover card with pictures of dogs on the front. The card belonged to the Nottingham woman whose cards had been taken at the White Marsh Sears, court documents state.
That day, police also searched Blevins, who allegedly had several gift cards. One was from the Pikesville Target, and police said it was purchased with the same Discover card.
According to court documents, Snipe told investigators that after eluding them for years, she "knew this was coming."