Man Crawled on Theater Floors, Stealing Money From Female Movie Watchers

PHOTO: Anthony Johnson, 49, of Philadelphia, was found guilty on October 23, 2012 of credit card fraud and identity theft offenses stemming from tens of thousands of dollars in purchases he made on credit cards he stole from women in Connecticut movie the

A jury found a Philadelphia man guilty of credit card fraud and indentity theft using a unique method to prey on his victims: He crawled around movie theater floors in the dark, stealing from women's purses. Prosecutors said he preferred to attend chick flicks, where plenty of women would show up.

On Monday, a jury in Hartford, Conn., found Anthony Johnson, 49, guilty of seven counts of unauthorized use of an access device and two counts of aggravated identity theft. The statutory maximum term of imprisonment he could face under those charges is 74 years.

Johnson, who is currently behind bars in Connecticut, where he committed his crime spree, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 14. His trial in the U.S. District Court in Hartford began on Oct. 16.

"He disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal once he's sentenced," said Frank J. Riccio II, his attorney.

Riccio said Anthony believes the testimony of his two female "accomplices" was "colored by their agreement to cooperate with the government."

"He disagrees with the contention that he played some sort of leadership role, that he somehow put them up to this and that they acted on their own accord," Riccio said.

His two accomplices, Lashirelle Bryant and Jamie McGowan, each pled guilty to one count of unauthorized use of an access device and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing has not yet been scheduled for Bryant or McGowan, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. While McGowan is currently detained, Bryant is out on bond.

According to a complaint filed against him, Johnson approached Bryant in 2008 about the scheme to steal from women watching a movie.

David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said Johnson targeted movies that he believed were geared toward women.

The two would sit near women and watch where they stored their purses.

"Once the movie started, Johnson crawled on the floor, removed credit cards from the stored purses, and returned the wallet to the purses," the complaint stated.

"The two would then go to a hotel room they had previously rented so that Johnson could create a false driver's license that reflected [Bryant's] picture and the name that appeared on the stolen credit card," the filing stated.

Bryant would then use the stolen credit card and fake license to buy items including gift cards, which Johnson would sell.

In one scheme, they stole three credit cards from a woman at Bow-Tie Cinemas in Greenwich, Conn., on Dec. 27, 2008. Video surveillance captured the suspects' images.

Bryant made a number of unauthorized purchases at Target, CVS and Foxwoods Casino and the two were captured on surveillance video at several other retailers.

They attempted to make transactions totaling $90,696.17 of which $54,596.90 were successfully charged.

The court filing details three similar schemes involving Johnson and McGowan. The two stole credit cards and made cash advances or large purchases, including charging $863 worth of merchandise at the Coach Store at Mohegan Sun Casino.

Norm Pattis, the attorney for McGowan, said the case is "heartbreaking."

He described McGowan as a young woman who at the age of 13 started using methamphetamine and turned to prostitution.

Pattis said Johnson "used her shamelessly up and down the East Coast," and that he and his client hope the judge will release her into a drug rehabilitation facility once she is sentenced.

"She has four young children who she wants to be involved with and she is hoping to turn her life around," Pattis said.

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