Authorities are warning Harris County residents about a growing crime trend in the area.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced Wednesday that the "Felony Lane Gang," which started in Florida, has made its way to Houston.
Officials say a group of men steal purses and then commit various identity theft crimes with stolen checks and driver's licenses, and make anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 per week.
The district attorney’s office says the thieves typically target women victims. In some cases, the crooks go to cemeteries where women, who are attending funerals or visiting burial sites, have left their purse in their car. In addition to cemeteries, day cares are also a common target.
"Identity thieves are constantly thinking of new ways to steal identities," said Anderson."Our office will prosecute those responsible for these crimes. However, prevention and awareness are key to stopping the thieves from victimizing our citizens."
Authorities say the gang's leaders recruit men to break into cars, while women are recruited to forge the stolen checks.
The DA’s office says the thieves often write checks for around $1,000.
Federal officials have labeled the group, "The Felony Lane Gang,” because they often use the farthest drive-through teller lane in order to avoid detection when withdrawing money from the victim's account.
"In this particular scheme, the thieves are looking for something they can grab quickly from your car," said Ed McClees, Chief of the Organized Crime Section. "The best advice is to not leave anything in your car. Always take your purse or wallet with you no matter where you are, and be aware of your surroundings. You can never be too careful."
As part of their investigation into this criminal organization, the Harris County District Attorney's Office is working with the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office and the FBI.
If you are a victim or have information that can help catch the thieves, you’re asked to call your local law enforcement agency.
- Houston Police Department: 713-884-3131
- Harris County Precinct 5 Constable's Office: 281-463-6666
- Houston FBI: 713-693-5000