A 30-year-old Petaluma man arrested by San Rafael Police early Monday is suspected of stealing purses from distracted shoppers' carts at grocery stores throughout Marin County and beyond over the past month, including thefts in San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley and Lafayette.
Police arrested Jason Ahtye Vasquez of Petaluma at 12:34 a.m. Sunday after he was located by Petaluma Police in his vehicle at the Gas and Shop gas station in southern Sonoma County at Kastania Road and Hwy. 101. He was booked into Marin County Jail on suspicion of felony burglary, possession of stolen property, drug possession and other violations.
San Rafael Police officers had responded to a call of a suspicious man at the Whole Foods Market at 340 Third Street in San Rafael Sunday night. Store employees told police they suspected the man was involved in an earlier purse theft. Witnesses helped identify the man by obtaining a vehicle license plate before he drove away from the scene prior to police arrival.
Officers reviewed the store's surveillance footage and determined that the man matched the description of the suspect in a purse theft that had occurred on Feb. 15. In that case, a suspect walked into the Whole Foods and stole a purse from a shopping cart.
San Rafael Police were notified that Novato Police were investigating two similar purse thefts that had occurred over the weekend, one at each of Novato's Safeway stores. The suspect in those cases matched the desciption of the suspect at Whole Foods in San Rafael.
Novato Police identified Vasquez as likely being responsible for the two Safeway purse thefts in their jurisdiction.
Additionally, San Rafael officers were able to determine that Vasquez was a suspect in purse thefts in Lafayette and four other purse thefts that occurred in Mill Valley and Southern Marin County.
Mill Valley Police Sgt. Paul Wrapp said his department is investigating a possible connection of Vasquez to three similar purse thefts in Mill Valley over the past several weeks.
Vasquez is currently being held at the Marin County Jail on $15,000 bail. Police in each of cities in which Vasquez is suspected in stealing purses are determining if additional charges are necessary.