Latino quartet rips off Lents artists’ cooperative manager

While one con kept her distracted, another one swiped her credit cards and cash. Discover why the executive director of non-profit Trillium Artisans is “going public” with her alarming story …

Amanda McCloskey, executive director at Trillium Artisans on SE Foster Road, showing the purse a sneak thief rifled, says she’s sharing her story to try to keep others from being ripped off.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For eight years, the folks who run Trillium Artisans in Lents have given help to local artists.  In addition to running a collective sales showroom, they help artisans learn how market their earth-friendly crafts.

But on October 31st, a quartet of a different kind of artists – con artists – came in the store to rob the organization’s executive director, Amanda McCloskey – using cunning, not weapons.

Gaining access to the office
“About 3:30, four Hispanic young people, two women and two men, came into our showroom,” McCloskey begins. “They talked about buying gifts to take ‘back to Tijuana’.”

First one of the women, then the other, asked to use the shop’s rest room. “We’re very relaxed and trusting. I didn’t think anything of it.”

To reach the restroom, however, one must travel through the organization’s office, past McCloskey’s desk – and her purse.

The distraction ruse
One of the women lured McCloskey to a part of the showroom where she couldn’t see the back office. “She started asking me a lot of questions – some of them didn’t really make sense. But she kept my attention.”

They didn’t take her purse, McCloskey tells us; but the sneak thief carefully picked through it. “She didn’t take my cell phone that was right next to it. She did take my credit cards, AAA card, and an auto insurance card! I think she took $20.”

The quartet didn’t actually make a purchase. “Three of them drifted over to the shop door and signaled to the woman who kept me talking. She said, ‘Oh my, got to run!’ and they out they went.”

Takes immediate action
It was when McCloskey went grocery shopping two hours later that she discovered the theft.

“When I saw my cards were gone, I went straight to the bank to notify them, filed a police report, and immediately called the credit card companies. The fraud departments at both credit card companies were very helpful. They gave me purchase information. Some went through and I’ll have to contest; others were stopped.”

The thieves left the store approximately 3:45 p.m., reports McCloskey. “They rang up a huge purchase at 4:18 p.m. at the Clackamas ‘Target’ Store. Then, an hour later, the crooks stopped for refreshments at a nearby convenience store.

Gets second view of crooks on tape
McCloskey says the bank card fraud investigators gave her the telephone number of a 7-11 Store on SE 82nd Avenue of Roses and SE Flavel Street.

“I called the store owners; the managers said they had the thieves on tape. I called the police and we looked at the tape. The tape showed all four, still hanging out together. One of the credit cards didn’t go through; the second card went through and they looked all kind cool when it worked.

After working up a thirst after racking up hundreds of dollars on McCloskey’s stolen credit cards, the crooked quartet stopped in this 7-11 Store for refreshments – where they were caught on tape.

“That store owner also said that she thinks her husband might know someone who knows who they are, which more than likely means that they hang out around here.”

Later that afternoon, the criminal quartet tried their luck at another Target store in Wilsonville. “The police have the tape from the 7-11 Store; they’re hoping to get pictures from the Target Stores, too,” McCloskey adds.

Be on the lookout
The suspects are Hispanic, their late teens or early twenties, all with dark brown/black hair with medium-to-light complexion.

The women are about 5’5″ tall, the two men a little taller. The speak English as a second language very fluently.

Advice for business people
“The police were sure that these four have done this before, and will keep doing it until their caught,” says McCloskey.

She asks out help by sharing these crime prevention tips – applicable to all kinds of businesses, not just retail:

  • Don’t let customers you don’t know use your bathroom. “If I’d hadn’t allowed this, it would have stopped them right there. They would have left.”
  • Don’t just hide your purse, lock it up. Sneak thieves often enter offices during break or lunch time, and quickly go through desk drawers looking for purses and wallets.
  • If it happens to you, immediately call your credit card’s fraud hotlines. “Find out what the most recent activity was, and talk to the store owner [where the transaction was] to see if they have video tape or know the customers. The police were very grateful that I got the video tape for them.”

“These thieves aren’t selective,” muses McCloskey, who says she is recovering from cancer and so can only work part-time; “I don’t have much for them to steal. On the other hand, stealing from me is like stealing from your grandma. It’s that low.”

Support Trillium Artisans

On the way out, McCloskey asks us to mention that Saturday, November 10, is the date of their annual Holiday Sale.

“We’ve got earth-friendly, fair-traded, locally-handmade craft gifts that make great holiday presents. Meet the artisans, enjoy wine and goodies and save 10% on your entire purchase. This special sale runs from 1 until 6 p.m.”

The gallery showroom is located at 9119 SE Foster Road, just west of SE 92nd Avenue. Call (503) 775-7993 or see them online at for more details.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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