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Distraction Thefts Increase

July 10-16, 2002

Distraction thefts increased in the county about three months ago, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.

"It seems there has been a lull lately until just recently," said Kraig Troxell, public information officer for the sheriff's office. "As we all know, we are one of the fastest growing populations in the area. With population growth sometimes comes this type of crime."

The sheriff's office responded to eight incidents of distraction thefts since April. The majority of the thefts occurred in the eastern end of the county in April and May, typically in commercial businesses, department stores and restaurants in the Sterling area. The locations typically are busy, such as shopping centers where people may not be paying attention, Troxell said.

MOST RECENTLY, the sheriff's office arrested two suspects at 6:44 p.m. on July 3 after they allegedly attempted to purchase a laptop from Office Depot in Sterling using a stolen credit card. The owner of the credit card reported the credit card had been stolen an hour earlier from her purse while she was in a grocery store in Reston. The woman told investigators one of the suspects may have been a female who approached her in the store and asked her about the produce. She said she did not realize the credit card was missing until a short time later.

The suspects are Yolanda Porras, 30, of Fairfax, and Gladys Paranizzini, 33, of Arlington. They are being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on charges of credit theft and fraud and on Immigration and Naturalization Service detainers. Porras was also charged with identity theft.

"We are investigating any and all similar cases that have occurred in Loudoun over the past few months," Troxell said, adding that the sheriff's office has suspect information for the other cases which cannot be released yet.

DISTRACTION THEFTS usually involve two or more subjects, one who distracts the victim and the other who removes a wallet or credit card from the victim's belongings, such as a purse that may be in a shopping cart or left unattended. The victim is usually a female, the sheriff's office reported.

"We want to make people aware it's going on and to take precautionary measures when they are out and about," Troxell said.

Troxell said the thefts are not occurring at any particular location and that particular businesses are not being targeted.

Residents who believe they have been a victim of a crime are encouraged to contact the sheriff's office at 703-777-1021.