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Police: Pickpurse pilfers credit cards from unwary Panera patrons

Jacksonville police say they picked up Pennsylvania woman at Avenues Mall

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville police on Tuesday arrested a Pennsylvania woman accused of stealing credit cards out of Panera Bread customers' purses.

Lakeisha Spotwood, 32, of Philadelphia, was booked just before 9 p.m. Tuesday into the Duval County jail on three felony counts of fraudulent or illegal use of credit cards to obtain goods $300 and one misdemeanor count of resisting police without violence, according to online jail records.

News4Jax on Thursday obtained three arrest reports that show credit cards were swiped Tuesday from a woman at the Panera Bread location on Midtown Parkway at the St. Johns Town Center and from two women at the Panera restaurant on Baymeadows Road. 

According to the reports, Spotwood snatched credit cards from purses hanging on chairs at the restaurants. In each case, the reports show, the victim was unaware until she got a message from the bank or credit card company that suspicious purchases were being made on her card.

One of the women, who only wished to be referred to as Tammy, told News4Jax her purse was hanging on a barstool-type chair at the Town Center Panera location when her credit cards were stolen.

"I felt the jolt of the purse like as if somebody were to walk by and hit it, and it was that quick," Tammy said. "Basically, nobody saw it. Even the person that was sitting in front of me didn’t see it."

Within 30 minutes, Tammy said she started getting alerts from her credit card company.

"It said, 'Staples -- $620.' and I’m, like, obviously I’m sitting here at Panera and I’m not at Staples, so I immediately called Staples and they said, 'She just left with gift cards of $620.' And I said, 'Well that wasn’t me,'" Tammy said. 

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said people should always place their purses in their sight.

"Put your purse over your head as opposed to on your shoulders or the back of the chair, so you can control it because it’s in the front of you," he said.

After checking surveillance video from other businesses involved, according the arrest reports, police spotted Spotwood on the escalator of the Avenues Mall later on Tuesday.

Police said they took her into custody at the mall, still holding bags from Victoria's Secret, Dillard's and Foot Locker. As she was being taken to a police vehicle and being locked in handcuffs, according to one of the reports, Spotwood tried to break free and run off, but an officer quickly placed her on the ground and then took her to jail.

One of the reports noted that Spotwood has an outstanding warrant for her arrest for credit card fraud out of Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania.

"Having her arrested was, to me, justice," Tammy said. "I hope she spends some serious time in jail and, hopefully, learns a lesson this time."

Tammy, who has since deactivated her stolen credit cards, added that she will now be extra cautious about her purse.


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