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Hyattsville Man Charged With Serial Pickpocket Crimes

Police arrested John Sylvester Washington, charging him with numerous "distraction thefts" across multiple counties.

A Hyattsville man and Fairfax woman have been arrested for charges related to a regionwide pickpocket scheme targeting elderly women in grocery stores, police said.

Police allege Jonathan Sylvester Washington, 50, and a female counterpart from Fairfax, Tamara Hope Claiborne, 40, are responsible for an estimated 50 incidents, occurring between the summer of 2009 and this month.

According to police, the thefts took place throughout the metropolitan area, including Fairfax, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Arlington counties, as well as the cities of Annapolis and Greenbelt, which police estimate amounted to an excess of $100,000 in the fraudulent conversion of funds.

Washington and Claiborne typically sought out elderly women while they were shopping, police allege. Claiborne would strike up conversations with them and often help them with tasks like reading labels for allergens, while Washington snatched their wallets from the purses they left unattended in their carts.

Many of the victims were not aware that their wallets were missing, according to the police, and in the interim the thieves purchased thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from retail outlets, including Best Buy, Home Depot and Kohl’s stores.

Police said Washington and Claiborne were arrested in Fairfax County and are currently being held there without bond.

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