Alleged S.F. purse thieves arrested

A suspected purse thief who allegedly stole hundreds of credit cards to which she charged tens of thousands of dollars was arrested wearing a wedding ring police say she admitted taking from one of the purses.

San Francisco police staked out the home of 41-year-old Charity Owens last Tuesday and arrested her while she was holding a purse that was reported missing from a restaurant on Church Street on May 17. She was found wearing a wedding band that had been inside the purse, said Denise Fabbri, a San Francisco Police Department burglary inspector.

Police first became aware of a series of purse thefts in February after the St. Regis hotel reported that a well-dressed woman had been caught by a security camera stealing a purse off the back of a chair.

“She doesn’t do anything to make herself stand out,” said Jesse Bowman, president of the Hotel Security Directors’ Association of San Francisco. “She comes in and purports to be a guest or a patron, and the next thing you know, the purse is gone.”

After allegedly stealing the purses, police say, Owens would immediately go to Union Square, where she would buy $500 gift cards at as many stores as she could, often purchasing $2,000-$3,000 worth. Then, Fabbri said, she would sell the cards for less than their value.

Sometimes, Owens would allegedly sell what is known as a “spread,” a package of two credit cards, a checkbook and a form of identification, for $300 to $500, Fabbri said.

When Owens returned to the St. Regis, security guards recognized her, Fabbri said. A guard tailed her to Third and Mission streets, where he saw her get into a white Honda. He wrote down the license plate.

Later that day, in a routine traffic stop, Alameda police arrested 27-year-old Luvenia Owens, Charity Owens’ sister, in the Honda, which contained stolen property, Alamedapolice Sgt. Joe McNiff said.

That arrest led police to the home of Charity Owens, where they arrested her, Alexander Baud, 32, and Dennis Owens, 54.

Police found a suitcase and duffel bag full of credit cards, pieces of identification, car keys, children’s photos and other contents of stolen purses, Fabbri said.

Alexander Baud was arrested on suspicion of making fake identification cards and counterfeiting checks, Fabbri said. Charity Owens admitted to taking two purses and was booked on grand theft, burglary and drug charges. Dennis Owens’ parole was revoked, as was Luvenia Owens’.

“The interesting part is that I asked both Luvenia Owens and Charity Owens, ‘If you could help me teach victims how they can protect themselves, what would you say?’” Fabbri said. “They said take your purses off your chairs, put them down between your feet and always be aware of everyone around you.”

amartin@examiner.com

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