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Woman charged for stealing purses at department stores fitting rooms

By Staff | Sep 28, 2010

PENNSDALE – A Williamsport woman has been charged with stealing women’s purses and wallets from the fitting rooms at two department stores at the Lycoming Mall, according to Muncy Township Police Chief Christopher McKibben.

Telfa Kujala Wills, 43, of 815 W. Fourth St., allegedly stole all but one of the wallets from a fitting room at the Bon Ton Department Store, McKibben said, adding that she was caught following a kind of sting operation.

The first victim to report a theft was Bon Ton customer Beth Hoover, who discovered her wallet missing after she left the fitting room and had gone to the cashier to pay for some merchandise, McKibben said.

That theft occurred on July 16, McKibben said.

A week later, customer Margie Bartolomucci reported that her purse and cell phone were stolen while she was in the store’s fitting room. Customer Mary Heim reported her wallet stolen on Aug. 4, and 10 days later, Louise Marchese reported her wallet missing.

By the end of August, two more customers, Lois Kline and Barbara Fiorini, reported their wallets stolen, and, at Macy’s, customer Glenda Mark reported her purse stolen from a fitting room.

Some of the wallets were recovered from trash cans in women’s rest rooms at other mall stores, McKibben said. Investigators were able to determine a possible suspect after reviewing videos taken from store or mall security cameras, he added.

When a woman believed to be the suspect entered BonTon’s on Sept. 1, a store employee quickly went into a fitting room with a police-issued wallet with $100 in it, McKibben said. Sure enough the wallet was removed from the fitting room.

Store employees followed the woman to a rest room at J.C. Penney’s, where the suspect, later identified as Wills, was apprehended. The stolen wallet was found in a trash can, minus the cash, McKibben said.

He alleges that Wills stole an estimated $2,000 from wallets and purses. It appears that Wills, while in a fitting room next to where the victims were trying on new outfits, allegedly reached through a 2-foot wide opening to grab the wallets, McKibben said.

When Wills was caught, it turned out that she was on probation and that state police already had a warrant for her arrest, charging her with allegedly cashing five checks that she stole from a Loyalsock Township home while living there in July.

Initially jailed on the state police charges in lieu of $10,000 bail, Wills since has been arraigned on eight counts each of theft and receiving stolen property filed by McKibben. She was recommitted in lieu of an additional $55,000 bail set by District Judge C. Roger McRae.