A thief or group of thieves has breached campus security at elementary schools in Mesa and Chandler and hit teachers at a place where many let their guard down: In their own classrooms.
Police believe a woman — possibly dressed as a nurse — has visited at least four elementary schools and one hospital since August and swiped credit cards from purses left unattended.
Jessica Seaman, a thirdgrade teacher at Mesa’s Emerson Elementary School, took her students to the computer lab on Aug. 29 and left her purse in her classroom. She didn’t notice anything amiss until that night — when her bank called about a number of high-dollar purchases made with one of her cards.
Seaman checked her purse and found two credit cards and about $100 in cash missing.
Investigators believe the same thief or group of thieves later stole credit cards from purses at Guerrero Elementary School in Mesa, Humphrey Elementary School in Chandler, Dobson Academy charter school in Chandler and Mesa General Hospital. The common thread among the thefts, police said, is that the purses were left unattended in classrooms or offices.
The cards taken were used to make hundreds of dollars worth of fraudulent purchases from local stores, Mesa police Sgt. Chuck Trapani said.
All public schools in Mesa and Chandler require visitors — including parent volunteers — to sign a logbook at the front office and wear a guest badge on campus.
Officials with the Mesa and Chandler unified school districts said they had to wait for more information from police before they could comment on how an intruder might enter a classroom and rummage through teachers’ purses.
“There are more questions than there are answers,” Chandler Unified School District spokesman Terry Locke said.
A message left at Dobson Academy seeking comment was not returned Thursday.
Police are looking for a woman seen on the video surveillance system at a Target store, in connection with multiple purchases made with the stolen credit cards.
The woman is described as black, 25 to 35 years old, approximately 200 to 220 pounds, with brown hair.
She is almost always seen wearing hospital scrubs and carries a large black wallet or pocketbook with a white “E” sewn on it.
Police seek help
Anyone who can identify the woman in the surveillance image, or who has information about these incidents is asked to call (480) 644-4134.