Helpful stranger offered a hand, then took a wallet

Published: Thursday, April 25 2013 8:37 p.m. MDT

AMERICAN FORK — A man who appeared to be a helpful stranger is suspected of stealing a wallet and racking up thousands of dollars in credit card bills.

A woman was pushing her wheelchair-bound daughter into the Olive Garden restaurant in American Fork two weeks ago while her husband parked the family car, police said.

A man approached and offered to help them into the restaurant.

"I honestly thought he was pushing the wheelchair in the door, because everybody always tries to help," the woman, who asked not to be identified, said. "It happens over and over again when good people try to help."

She said the family enjoyed their meal and had a great night out, taking in a movie after dinner. But when they got out of the movie the woman checked her cellphone and saw an email, followed by three voicemails on the family's home answering machine reporting a number of large charges.

She then realized her wallet had been taken from her purse without her noticing.

Surveillance shows two women who went to a nearby Target, 608 W. Main, and used the alleged victim's credit cards to purchase a number of gift cards totaling thousands of dollars. Police believe the two women were accomplices to the man who initially offered to help.

A total of eight charges amounted to about $2,000 each.

American Fork Police Sgt. Gregg Ludlow said the gift cards were then taken to another Target, where they were exchanged for smaller denominations. They have since been used in Illinois to purchase iPads and other iTunes gift cards.

"I actually even told the gentleman thank you for helping us," the woman said. "It can happen under your nose. It literally happened under my nose and I just didn't know it had happened."

Contributing: Emiley Morgan

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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