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Alleged church thief caught

Police say the 43-year-old Georgia woman had hit 16 north Pinellas churches, taking unattended wallets and purses.

Published May 5, 2006


CLEARWATER - Police on Friday morning arrested a 43-year-old Georgia woman who they say went to local churches and, when no one was looking, stole unattended wallets and purses.

Karen Lang, who has been living in Pinellas County for only a few weeks, had hit 16 churches from Nebraska Road in Palm Harbor to Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard in Clearwater since March 27, police Sgt. Greg Stewart said.

She was captured about 11 a.m., minutes after her latest strike at Bethel Lutheran Church on McMullen-Booth Road, Stewart said. An officer saw her car outside Clearwater Mall's Target store, where Lang tried to use the stolen credit cards, he said.

Typically, police say, this is how Lang worked:

She walked into a church-run day care center and asked for a tour, saying she was interested in enrolling her child there. She looked for unattended wallets and purses, then created a distraction by asking for water or to use a telephone.

Within an hour of leaving, she generally went to a CVS or Target store using the purloined credit cards.

It was that habit of shopping at Target that prompted police to look for Lang's car there, Stewart said.

[Last modified May 5, 2006, 23:00:17]

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