BETHESDA, Md. - A suspect is wanted in a rash of purse and wallet thefts from schools in Montgomery County, according to officials.
The Montgomery County Police Department said nine different schools and daycare facilities have been struck throughout the area since May, with the most recent theft coming on June 29.
Investigators said the theft of the purses and wallets, which they said were left in unattended in classrooms, began during the school year but continued into the summer.
Authorities said the suspect would use his victim's money and credit cards to rack up thousands of dollars at nearby stores. So far he's stolen $500 in cash and racked up $13,000 in fraudulent credit charges, according to officials.
"He knows there's a limited amount of time before these female victims realize, 'My purse is gone, my wallet is gone.' So he knows what he's doing," Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti with the Montgomery County Police Department explained.
Eleven teachers have reported thefts at schools in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Rockville, including:
Authorities said some of the thefts even occurred during school hours. At three of the schools, the suspect was confronted and questioned by staff, according to detectives.
"He offered a very short excuse, very brief excuse. One time he said he was a member of the cleaning crew, one time he said he was trying to locate a summer camp and again at that point he quickly left the school. He knew people were questioning him and he quickly left," Innocent said.
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County Public Schools said they were working with authorities to determine how the suspect gained access to their buildings, noting that everyone who enters a county school must be buzzed in.
"With these incidents, there's no evidence of forced entry, no obvious signs of forced entry. There's no indication he wants to do anything else but quickly take these items," Innocenti said.
Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect. Tipsters can call 1-866-411-8477.