Using wheels to commit crimes isn’t uncommon, and it’s not just drive-by shootings in the news these days. So-called “Sliders” pull up at gas station to steal purses from unsuspecting women. New York City has a new scourge: The Wheelchair Bandit.
Last Friday, NYPD turned to the media for help in tracking down a Hispanic-looking man, sometimes wearing glasses, who has thrice stolen women’s bags and rolled away. Although they cannot be certain until the thief is apprehended, police have no reason to believe the man is not actually disabled. “Every time we’ve seen him, he’s in the wheelchair,” a police source told the Daily News.
The media blitz was a success and hours later police booked 25-year-old Matias Moreno-Boza of Perth Amboy, New Jersey into custody, where he was charged with four counts of larceny.
Moreno-Boza appeared at his Saturday arraignment in a wheelchair. Speaking in Spanish, Moreno-Boza told the Court he had been confined to a wheelchair for five years after an unspecified “incident.” Bail was set for $50,000.
In his last heist on September 6, 2013, Moreno-Boza allegedly snatched a 35-year-old diner’s purse from the back of her chair. The woman was enjoying a meal at Txikito, a Spanish restaurant in the Clinton neighborhood.
On the evening of September 3, 2013, the bandit rolled into the cuban-themed restaurant Havana Central in Times Square, and rolled out with a purse belonging to a 40-year-old tourist from Illinois. The woman had left the bag on her chair before hitting the dancefloor.
Less than a week earlier, Moreno-Boza apparently used the same modus operandi to steal a fancy Coach purse that had been placed under the bar by a 34-year-old female diner. The August 30, 2013 theft took place during the evening at Nobu 57, a swanky Japanese restaurant in midtown Manhattan. Investigators said the woman’s stolen credit card was used to buy pizza shortly after the theft.
The first reported wheelchair larceny occurred on August 19, 2013 in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. A 42-year-old woman (none of the names of victims have been released) put down her bag to speak with the concierge and later noticed it was gone. Nobody seems to have given the seemingly-handicapped man a second glance as he wheeled off with a satchel containing about $300 in cash, jewelry, credit cards, and an iPhone.
Even with the Wheelchair Bandit ramped into custody, women should keep their purses close and stay aware: thieves can come in unlikely shapes.