Mall clerk helps nab fraud suspect

Returning to the scene of the crime was the downfall for one local man arrested last week on suspicion of fraud.

The man is suspected of stealing credit cards from a Federal Way man’s secured locker at a Kent health club before heading for SeaTac Mall and running up hundreds of dollars in fraudulent charges for clothing.

It was the security system of Jeans Galore owner Kenny Lee and the keen eye of his employee, 20-year-old Michelle McBride, that led to the suspect’s arrest. In addition to Jeans Galore, the culprit is believed to have committed fraud at Mr. Rags and Champs Sports.

He was nabbed by Federal Way police on Nov. 3 as he tried to exchange an ill-gotten sweater.

When he came into the store, McBride notified police and Lee, her boss. She even stayed past the end of her shift to give a statement.

The man had purchased the sweater Friday afternoon, even before victim Jack Bettelon had noticed two of his cards were missing.

McBride said she was duped into the sale by the suspect, someone she had frequently seen at the store. When the man used a charge card for the purchase, she asked for identification. He produced another card with the same name on it, but said he didn’t have identification handy.

“Being that he’s a regular customer, I took it,” she said.

But on Friday evening, Bettelon realized he had been ripped off, and his wife, Lynne, called authorities and the credit companies. Lynne was directed to call the stores and found that Jeans Galore had a good security camera system.

Lee told his employees about the stolen card and to be on the lookout.

The next day, thanks to McBride, the effort paid off.

Because of federal law offering protection from fraudulent credit card purchases, Bettelon has already had the lost money returned to his account pending the outcome of the case.

Bettelon said he doesn’t know how the cards got taken, but discovered the suspect was a member of the same health club.

“I wonder why he thought he could get away with it,” Bettelon said, adding that coming back to the store the next day was “pretty brazen.”

Lynne Bettelon said she was especially grateful to Lee and McBride.

“They were heroes in the way they participated,” she said.

She also said she learned some lessons in personal security — and that communicating with merchants can help the police, the stores and the victims.

“Nobody expects it to happen to them,” she said. “People can help. They can do something by calling the stores.”

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