MACEDONIA, Ohio - A NewsChannel5 viewer will receive a reward for providing information to police that led to the arrests of three suspects accused of distracting shoppers and then stealing purses and wallets throughout northeast Ohio.
"Without receiving that information, it would have been very hard to identify them," said Macedonia Police Detective Sergeant Ken Turley.
Michael Sailes, 54, of Cleveland, Herman Hilliard, 52, of Cleveland, and Kelli Jones, 49, of Cleveland are all facing theft charges, police said.
On the Aug. 12 edition of Live On 5, surveillance video of two men and one woman was shown inside the Macedonia Walmart store.
Mary Sindelar, 57, was shopping in the meat section when she was approached by a woman who asked a question about a pot roast.
As Sindelar turned away from her shopping cart, a man approached and snatched her wallet from the purse.
"I absolutely felt violated and I'm so afraid to shop now," Sindelar said during an interview last month.
The video showed the two suspects, along with a second man believed to be involved in the crime, leaving the store. Police said they got away in a full-sized Chevrolet conversion van, which was also shown on Live On 5.
Sindelar's stolen credit card was later used at a gas station and inside Sam's Club in Oakwood Village where the crooks purchased an $800 computer.
Within hours of the broadcast, police and Summit County Crimestoppers began receiving multiple calls including a tip from a woman who identified all three of the suspects.
"The names had to be confirmed. These individuals have been known to use aliases," Turley said.
On Sept. 12, Sailes was arrested by Eastlake police and members of U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force. Jones turned herself in to the task force on the same day. According to police, both are being held in the Lake County Jail.
Turley said Hilliard was picked up in Cuyahoga County and is being held in the Cuyahoga County Jail.
The three suspects are facing numerous felony and misdemeanor charges, according to police.
Sindelar said she's still fearful when she watches the video, but is grateful that the suspects were arrested.
"I'm relieved that they're caught because it means that other people will not be affected or have their wallets taken," Sindelar said.
Investigators are not revealing the name of the tipster, but said she will receive a reward up to $2,000 from Summit County Crimestoppers.
Turley estimates the tip could help clear up about a dozen distraction thefts at area stores. Similar crimes were also reported in Eastlake, Willoughby, Middleburg Heights and Westlake in recent months, he said.