NBCPhiladelphia.com- Denise Nakano
A woman victimized by a gang of thieves in Center City talks about the crime. NBC10's Denise Nakano has her story.
Police have identified a trio of pickpockets who were captured on surveillance video stealing from a woman as she ate at a Center City restaurant. As police continue their search for the suspects, the woman in that video is speaking out for the first time, hoping the lessons she learned can help other potential victims.
Amanda D'Amico, 32, was eating inside the Rice & Mix Restaurant on the 1200 block of Walnut Street back on January 10. As she was eating, police say two men and a woman entered the restaurant around 8:45 p.m. The woman and one of the men distracted a clerk while the other man walked towards D'Amico.
Surveillance video shows the man sitting directly behind D'Amico as she ate, placing his jacket over her purse which was hanging on the back of her chair, and stealing her wallet. Police say the man then walked over to the other two suspects and had a brief conversation before all three fled the scene in an unknown direction.
"It was jarring that it was captured on film and I could watch it over and over again," D'Amico told NBC10 on Wednesday. "I really didn't have any clue that he was there or as close as he was."
D'Amico says she was unaware of the theft until she returned to the restaurant in search of her wallet and restaurant workers showed her the surveillance video.
"It was really upsetting," D'Amico said. "I felt violated. That was upsetting that it took him awhile to do it and I still didn't notice."
Police say the trio used the same method during a theft at the Metropolitan Diner on South 19th and Spruce Streets on September 20. Surveillance video shows the woman taking a wallet from a pocketbook. About an hour after that theft, the woman and two men, who allegedly served as lookouts, were spotted at a South Philly Home Depot store buying $15,000 in gift cards with the victim's stolen credit card, according to investigators.
Law enforcement sources also say the trio may be connected to other crimes, possibly as far as Wilmington, Delaware.
“Your pocketbook, your belongings, you should always keep it in front of you,” said Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Patrick Doherty. “If you can’t see your belongings or your handbag you’re at risk of becoming a victim of this type of crime.”
D'Amico says her experience should serve as a warning to others to be aware of their surroundings.
"The things I'm going to do different now are make sure my bag has a zipper and carry a smaller wallet so that it's not so easy to pick out my bag," she said.
On Wednesday, police announced they identified the three suspects. They plan to release their names and photos on Thursday.
The first suspect is described as a 40-year-old man with a full beard standing between 5-foot-9 and 6-feet. He was last seen wearing a blue Jeff hat, blue quilted pattern jacket, dark blue argyle print sweater, blue jeans and white sneakers.
The second suspect is described as a stocky, 40-year-old man standing between 5-foot-9 and 6-feet. He was last seen wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, dark-colored North Face jacket and blue jeans.
The third suspect is described as a 40-year-old, medium built woman standing 5-foot-6. She was last seen wearing glasses, a dark-colored baseball cap, dark-colored north Face jacket and blue jeans. She was also carrying a tan-colored pocket book.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of the suspects, please call Philadelphia Police or 911.