The suspect would observe and then target female shoppers who left their pocketbooks unattended in shopping carts as they shopped. When the victim shopper was looking or standing away from their shopping cart, the suspect would take the purse and leave the store. A possible suspect description was obtained from some of the victims.
On July 11th, 2012 police were contacted by the management of one of the grocery stores where these crimes had occurred. The caller reported a male subject matching the description of the suspect in the previous crimes was in the store.
Officers responded and located this subject in the store. Subsequent investigation, including review of surveillance video, witness and victim statements and the suspect interview resulted in the arrest of this subject.
Arrested was Benjamin P Prota, 31, of Poughkeepsie. He was charged with two counts of Grand Larceny Fourth Degree (E Felony) and one count of Petit Larceny (A Misdemeanor) for the theft of purses on three separate dates. The investigation is continuing in to other similar thefts and additional felony charges are pending.
Defendant was arraigned by Judge Paul Banner at Town of Poughkeepsie Court and remanded to the Dutchess County Jail on $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.
The Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department reminds residents to always maintain visual contact with their purses, keep their purses closed while shopping and to never wander away from a cart if it contains your purse.