A 50-year-old Bronx man was arrested Sunday and charged with stealing cash and credit cards from purses in parked cars as women dropped their children off at Washington Elementary School, Police Chief Benjamin C. Fox said Monday.
Fox said that on January 17, 2013 and April 2, 2013, mothers left their purses in unlocked cars for brief periods as they escorted their children into the school.
In both cases, the women discovered later that someone had taken credit cards and cash, but left the purses behind, Fox said. Because the purses appeared undisturbed, the thefts were not discovered until after the thief had an opportunity to purchase gift cards with the credit cards, allowing him to purchase merchandise well after the credit cards were reported stolen, Fox said.
Surveillance videotapes at the stores where the credit cards were used led investigators to John F. Clarke of Bronx, Fox said. He added that Clarke had a long history of identical thefts and had been charged four times in Wyckoff since 2002. In addition, Fox said, Clarke has been charged with similar crimes in other jurisdictions.
On April 22, Detective Sgt. Michael Musto charged Clarke with two counts of burglary of an auto, theft, and illegal use of a credit card. A warrant was issued by Wyckoff Municipal Court Judge Russel B. Teschon and bail was set at $50,000.
An alert was issued for the vehicle Clarke had been known to drive, and on Sunday, Patrolman. Mark Tagliareni spotted the vehicle and arrested Clarke on Route 208 near Grandview Avenue, Fox said.