Police: ‘Felony Lane' purse snatchers lurk in Buckhead

Police call the bandits the “Felony Lane Gang” for their alleged habit of using the farthest lane from a drive-up bank teller to cash stolen checks – the better not to be recognized.

The suspects, believed to be from South Florida, lurk around places women might leave purses in their vehicles for short periods – outside schools during student pick-up and drop-off times, and at post offices, parks and gyms.

“It seems to be a place where someone would have in their mind, ‘I will be in and out real quick,’” Atlanta police Detective Joseph York told Channel 2 Action News.

The thieves look for a driver’s license and checkbook in a victim’s purse, police said. A female suspect in disguise then goes through the far lane of a bank drive-up to cash a check, using the driver’s license as identification.

“A lot of times the cases have involved wigs, makeup, glasses -- different things to hide their identity,” York said.

Police reported eight confirmed cases, all believed to be linked, between March 6 and 21 – six in Atlanta, one in DeKalb County and one in Cobb County. The average loss for each victim has been $10,000 to $15,000, police said.

One of their victims told Channel 2 that she lost far more -- $18,000 in less than four hours after thieves took a purse from the passenger side of her car after she left it unattended outside Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead.

She had stopped to drop off her 5-year-old at the school there about 8:20 a.m. on a recent day.

“They saw that I didn’t have a bag on my shoulder, and they went in for the kill within a minute and a half,” Natalie Wilson said.

When she returned to her vehicle, the purse was gone.

Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call police or Atlanta Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

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