With their eyes peeled for wallets, three men would make their way into various businesses, hospitals and even a government building.
And after going into unauthorized areas and snatching what wallets they could from unsuspecting employees, they’d head for grocery stores, where they’d try to use the credit and debit cards inside to make purchases – making sure to always hit the “cash back” option in the checkout lane.
Now, three suspects are facing felony counts of corrupt business influence, with two of them looking additional counts of forgery. Each is accused in Allen County Superior Court documents of engaging in “racketeering activity.”
Allen County prosecutors brought formal charges against the three Monday, identifying them as:
Jeffery L. Ward, 51, of the 8400 block of Lakeside Drive; Daniel T. Wilson, 52, of the 3500 block of Hanna Street; and Clearance Franklin Blake, 53, of the 600 block of Guild Drive.
According to court documents, the thefts may have begun as early as April, when a woman reported that her wallet had been stolen from her office at Parkview Hospital.
That same day, someone used one of her credit cards to make a transaction at a local Kroger.
The next day, a woman working at Lutheran Hospital reported that her wallet had been stolen from there and that her credit card had been used at a Scott’s.
Days later, a woman working at the Hallmark store in Apple Glen reported a similar story to police. Another story came from a woman working at Citizens Square downtown a few weeks after that.
While these reports were coming in, loss-prevention officers were reporting to police the suspicious activity of Ward, Wilson and Blake at checkout counters at various stores, according to court documents.
All three were seen on various videos trying to perform some of these transactions.
“Additional cases continued to flow into FWPD (Detective Bureau) involving these three suspects,” a police detective wrote in court documents.
The detective estimated there may have been 10 total cases of the three stealing from others and using other people’s debit or credit cards from late April through early June.
The total loss to those the three are accused of stealing from and the financial institutions involved about $4,300, court records said.
While each man is facing one count of corrupt business influence, Wilson was charged with one count of forgery and Ward was charged with two counts of forgery.
Ward has a criminal history that includes prison time for criminal confinement and battery. Wilson has served prison time for multiple counts of theft as well as robbery and dealing cocaine.
Blake has no criminal history in Allen County.