The 75-year-old woman was just trying to see her mother, who was eager to return home from Overlake Hospital Medical Center, but three well-dressed...

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The 75-year-old woman was just trying to see her mother, who was eager to return home from Overlake Hospital Medical Center, but three well-dressed men wouldn’t let her leave the elevator.

One man said his foot was caught in the door and asked her to help. When she bent down to lend a hand, another man reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet.

Suddenly, the men were right next to her, ushering her out of the elevator, and the doors closed with them still inside. A few minutes later, in her mother’s hospital room, the woman realized what was missing.

“I thought I was in a safe place,” said the Bellevue woman, who did not want to be identified. “I was in Overlake Hospital in the middle of the afternoon.”

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Bellevue police say the same group of pickpockets has struck four times, three in Bellevue and one in Seattle. All of the incidents happened in September, and police are releasing descriptions of the suspects in hopes of receiving new leads.

The two or three men are described by police as well-dressed and 30 to 40 years old. A woman wearing nurse-type clothes and a stethoscope around her neck also was involved, police said. The woman was seen trying to use a credit card stolen in one of the incidents, police said. The team targets elderly women by blocking their path in tight spaces and then reaching into their purses, said Michael Chiu, Bellevue police spokesman. “It’s all thought out, and they’re just waiting for the right person.”

With a few days of busy Christmas shopping and crowded stores remaining, people should be careful, because thieves like to strike in crowded, stressful places, Chiu said.

Pickpocket-prevention tips


Keep handbags zippered or the flaps secured.

Don’t allow strangers to encroach on your personal space.

Keep handbags in front of you or tucked firmly under your arm.

Make eye contact with suspicious strangers to show that you’re aware of them.

Call 911 immediately to report any theft, and call your credit companies to cancel credit cards.

Source: Bellevue police

The pickpockets also struck in these locations, usually taking a few hundred dollars and credit cards: Larry’s Market, 699 120th Ave. N.E., Bellevue; Albertsons, 15100 S.E. 38th St., Bellevue; and Swedish Medical Center on First Hill in Seattle.

Anyone with information should call 911 and ask for the Bellevue Police Department. Tips also can be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-274-6313.

Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com