A felony theft of property warrant has been obtained for the arrest of a woman identified as Linda Marie Owens in connection to cash thefts that occurred at local grocery stores on Aug. 28, 2013, according to a news release from the Fort Smith Police Department.
Owens is reportedly a former resident of Florida and is associated with the Owens-Mijah Till Tap family. She is 56 years old, approximately 5'4" tall and weighs 175 lbs. Owens is currently wanted in Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, New Jersey, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, Texas and Florida, according to the news release
The thefts all occurred during a con that is commonly called "Till Tapping."
"The usual female “tapper” will enter a retail store with at least three (3) other accomplices and typically target “younger looking or less experienced” employees. The con begins with a small transaction such as the purchase of a pack of cigarettes, gum, lighters, etc. When the cash drawer opens, the female “tapper” will appear confused about denominations of U.S. currency and speak in a foreign language. The “tapper” will gesture towards the larger denominations of cash by pointing at them and continuously speaking the foreign language (described as possibly eastern European / Russian)," the news release states.
The release continues, "If the clerk removes cash from the drawer, the “tapper” will subtly remove the cash from the clerk’s hands keeping it in full view. The cash is spread apart like a deck of cards and moved up and down, and in a circular motion. During this time, the “tapper” will have used a finger to separate the stack of cash creating two layers. The cash is then stacked and given back to the clerk, but not before the finger(s) used to create a second layer are curled, concealing a portion of the money. The money is then placed into the “tapper’s” purse."
During the con, other members of the group will act as distracters to other patrons of the business or employees. Men associated with the con may also be present in the immediate area to act as "blockers."
The "blockers" may intervene, leading up to being physical, to ensure "tappers" escape if detected.
"Late August of 2013 they got right at $1700 cash from Fort Smith stores, two within 20 minutes of each other," said Daniel Grubbs with the Fort Smith Police Department.
"[Members of] this group [are] prime suspects for identical thefts that occurred in Fayetteville and Springdale, Arkansas and warrants are expected to be forthcoming. During the Fayetteville and Springdale incidents, over $4,400.00 in cash was taken during the “Till Tapping” con," the news release states.
All members of this group are reportedly wanted in numerous states, and they are extremely mobile. Their current location is unknown, according to the news release.
Grubbs said he does not know if Owen is in Fort Smith , but he has been in contact with the other states Owens is wanted in.
Anyone with information on Owens is encouraged to call their local law enforcement agency. For safety reasons, merchants that encounter the group are encouraged to NOT confront them. Instead, they encouraged to stall for time and immediately notify their local law enforcement agency.