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Deputies: Family uses 9-year-old in purse snatching at Tampa Bay Chuck E. Cheese

3:02 PM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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BRANDON, Fla. -- The Hillsborough Co. Sheriff's Office is asking the public to help find two women who allegedly used a nine-year-old boy to commit a purse snatching.

"Here's a situation where we have guardians, relatives that are actually encouraging a child to get involved in a crime," said sheriff's office spokesperson Larry McKinnon.

Surveillance video from the Chuck E. Cheese's in Brandon reportedly shows the women ordering the boy to take the purse from a distracted customer was not looking on Sunday July 1st. 

"It's not unusual to see these kids there," McKinnon said. "Usually you're not going to have to worry about small kids stealing a purse as you would an adult - so you're probably even less on guard."

Chantel Jenkins and Jasmine Johnson are being sought on charges of 3rd degree grand theft, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and fraudulent possession of personal information. 

While the sheriff's office removed the portion of the video that shows the child committing the crime, it does show the aftermath in which the victim's husband tries to go after the suspect.

"You could actually physically see the child give the purse to the aunt and then them actually leaving Chuck E. Cheese's," said McKinnon.

Shortly afterwards, deputies were called to the scene and the suspects were questioned. But after denying that they took the woman's purse, they were allowed to leave.

Later, after viewing the video, arrest warrants were issued for both Jenkins and Johnson. Johnson is the child's aunt.

The nine-year-old was later located and placed in the custody of other family members. Officials say the boy is considered a victim in the case.

Customers told 10 News that it is very easy to become distracted inside in the restaurant when dealing with kids.

"People just drop their purse and all their personal stuff on the table then they run around and play with the kids," said Rafael Reyes, a frequent customer to the establishment. 

Others said the theft itself, and that a child was apparently used, are a disturbing signs of the times. 

"It just makes you feel like you're unsafe, even at a place just for children," said customer Franchely Mora.

If you know the whereabouts of Jenkins or Johnson, you're urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.

Andre Senior, WTSP

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