MACEDONIA, Ohio — Marie Woods enjoyed her exercise last Friday night at the Macedonia Recreation Center until her cell phone alerted her. She was riding a stationary bike when a message popped up that would cut her workout short.
"I got a notice from my credit card saying that you've been approved for $235 at Walmart and I'm going, I'm here, not at Walmart," Woods said.
She received two more messages for even higher approvals, and then moments later, Macedonia police informed her that someone had smashed one of the windows of her car parked in the rec center parking lot and stole her purse.
"And it really got me because I know better than to leave my purse in my car, but I was going to go shopping after I worked out," Woods explained.
That same night, two suspects were captured on camera at the Streetsboro Walmart racking up about $2,000 in charges on credit cards belonging to Woods and another rec center smash-and-grab victim, who also had a purse stolen.
Last night, more glass was shattered after two more car break-ins at the rec. A diaper bag and another purse were stolen, but this time, credit cards were declined when a man tried to use them at the Macedonia Walmart.
"This is known through law enforcement as Felony Lane Gang activity," said Macedonia Lt. Vince Yakopovich.
The Felony Lane Gang is a national group of criminals creating so much trouble for law enforcement that a dedicated task force set up a Facebook page to help identify potential thieves.
In both Macedonia cases, a red Ford Explorer was the suspected getaway car. It's believed the SUV had a stolen license plate from Bedford Heights during Friday's crimes, but it was switched to a stolen plate from Toledo when the Tuesday smash-and-grabs happened.
Yakopovich said changing plates and committing multiple crimes in a region of the country over three to five days is a typical method of operation for the gang.
"A lot of times, these groups come up out of Florida, rent cars and they're hitting day cares and rec centers.
Woods, who also lost about $300 and her driver's license, was stunned to learn she may be the victim of national crime ring.
"I don't even know what to say. I just think that's a lousy way to make a living if that's what you're doing," she said.
Yakopovich and Woods both stressed to not leave valuables such as purses or wallets in cars.
"If you're going to these kind of places, leave your purse at home or lock it in your trunk before you go," Yakopovich said.
Police urged anyone with information that could identify the men captured by surveillance cameras to call the Macedonia Police Departmetn at 330-468-1234.