Grieving women targeted at cemeteries

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston police are warning that a specific group of thieves is targeting grieving women as they visit the gravesites of loved ones. Detectives came across this trend after the recent arrests of several suspected members of the so-called "Felony Lane" gang.

One of those victims was a woman who spoke with Local 2 under the condition her identity was not revealed.

"I would never believe anything like this would happen to me," the woman said. "This is a sacred place, this is like going to church."

The woman's car was burglarized while finalizing the details of her mother's burial at the Memorial Oaks Cemetery off Interstate 10 near Eldridge Parkway. The woman said her purse was stolen out of her car while visiting the spot where her mother was to be buried next to her father.

"It's just hard to imagine that anybody would prey on anybody's grief at that time," the woman said.

The woman said she was accompanied by her husband, the cemetery's funeral director, and was not more than 30 feet from her car when the thieves broke in and stole her purse.

"I never saw anything, never heard anything," the woman said.

Police said the thieves not only got away with the woman's personal information, but also got her mother's personal information. Police said within a matter of days the thieves used the personal information of the woman's deceased mother to drain her bank account of more than $12,000.

Detectives said these thieves prowl cemeteries and watch for women who leave their purses in their cars while visiting a gravesite.

"They're specifically hitting women, almost without exception," said an undercover detective with the Houston Police Department. "The purse, that's the golden goose they're after. They're looking for your ID, your social, credit cards, checkbooks even."

The HPD detective said they came across this trend after arresting five suspected members of the "Felony Lane" gang. Police said the group, which is primarily based in Florida, got it's nickname by always using the outside lane of a bank drive-through when trying to cash stolen checks.

The detective said when the group was arrested they found personal information belonging to 47 different victims. The detective said nine of those victims had their cars burglarized while at cemeteries.

Investigators said the crooks are believed to have burglarized cars at cemeteries in Houston, Harris County, The Woodlands, Pearland, Freeport and Brenham.

"I certainly hope that you really look around, carry your purse, don't leave anything valuable in your car, watch everything that you are doing," the woman said.

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