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Team of thieves targets senior Carmel Mountain Costco shopper

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SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — For the third time in two months, a senior Costco customer said her wallet was missing after an encounter at a store.

Late last Thursday morning, 82-year-old Valerie Kuck went shopping at Costco in Carmel Mountain.

“She put her partially open purse in the cart, and about 15 minutes later found herself in front of a display of pajamas. She says a thin, dark-haired man approached her.

“He came up to me in broken English and said, ‘I can’t find it, kid,'” Kuck said.

After a few round trips, Valérie decides to grab the small-size pajamas for him.

She says he got in front of the rack, so she couldn’t put her cart there, which made her walk to the rack, find the small size pajamas and hand him the pyjamas.

Kuck believes that while she was away from her cart for about 10 seconds, an accomplice targeted her purse.

A few minutes later, at checkout, she discovered that her wallet had disappeared from her purse.

“Feeling of sinking. Oh my God, no!” said Kuck.

When she got home, she called her credit card company.

“Two loads, $1,000 and about $4,000, at Home Depot,” Kuck said.

Kuck’s ordeal is the most recent in a series of similar flights we have reported. Since August, two other elderly people’s wallets have been removed from their purses at Costcos in Carmel Mountain and San Marcos, after clever distraction techniques involving people asking for help in broken English.

Former El Cajon police officer Kevin Lachapelle said the similarities could point to a ring of thieves, although the distraction tactic is not uncommon.

“There could be coordination with a larger team… They are looking for the easiest target. Go in and out, and get money,” Lachapelle said.

“It’s disgusting. Continuing our good nature, lots of people wanting to help,” Kuck said.

Kuck hopes sharing her story will stop the thieves from striking again.

“They’re planning on having a big vacation for themselves and we have to stop that,” Kuck said.

Kuck says the fee was waived by his credit card company. ABC 10News contacted investigators in all three cases, as well as Costco. San Diego police said there were no updates in any of their cases.

Lachapelle says the best advice for shoppers is to carry a shoulder bag and not put the handbag in the cart.

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