Bluetooth Bandit’s victims speak out: 'This guy needs to be caught'

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As reports of thefts from purses in San Francisco mount, victims are coming forward with stories about their run-ins with a dapper-dressed crook nicknamed the Bluetooth Bandit.

Last week, police sought the public’s help in catching a man seen wearing a Bluetooth earpiece and a slick suit who has a knack for snagging credit and debit cards from purses.

He has targeted coffee shops, restaurants, bars and Muni, using at least a half-dozen accomplices to help him either distract victims or make charges on cards as soon as 15 minutes after a heist, police Sgt. Mark Moreno said.

Police obtained surveillance video from several establishments that shows the crook in action.

With the video released to the public, victims are now coming forward to police and The San Francisco Examiner, saying they’ve seen the cunning crook in action.

Rodger Hostetler, a San Francisco photographer, said his wife had her iPhone and wallet stolen while dining at an upscale restaurant in the Mission district. He said the thief, who looked like the man in the video released by police, was sitting nearby and appeared to be on a date with a woman.

At one point his wife reached for her purse, which was slung over her chair, and noticed her phone and wallet missing.

“We quickly looked for the couple but they were nowhere to be found,” Hostetler said.

Within a half-hour, the thieves had purchased a computer at the Apple Store and two phones at T-Mobile, Hostetler said.

Martin McEnery said he caught the Bluetooth Bandit trying to steal from his fiancee’s purse at Gordon Biersch, where they were watching the Giants’ playoff game against Atlanta last year.

The crook fled.

“This guy needs to be caught,” McEnery said. “I’m just glad we did not lose anything.”

The Bluetooth Bandit is wanted in eight thefts in San Francisco and suspected in as many as six others in The City. The investigation has also widened to include Mountain View and Sacramento.

The bandit is described as a black man in his 40s standing between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 11 inches. He weighs between 160 and 175 pounds and has short hair, police said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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