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[UPDATE] LCSO Has Arrested Suspect in School Thefts

By: LCSO Press Release; Julie Montanaro; Stephanie Salvatore Email
By: LCSO Press Release; Julie Montanaro; Stephanie Salvatore Email

[UPDATE] 12-10-2010 6:10 pm by Stephanie Salvatore

31-year-old Samara Seward has been stopped in her tracks. But not without a trail of damage in her path.

She's known as the Buxom Bandit to detectives across the state, because of her full figure, a so called professional con-artist who has stolen thousands of dollars from teachers in several Florida school districts and most recently, in Leon County.

Just this week, Seward was able to enter unattended classrooms at Desoto Trail, Sealey, Riley, Roberts and Astoria Park Elementary Schools, stealing wallets containing credit cards, checks and cash, a situation that leaves many parents feeling uneasy.

"It's kind of ridiculous she's just walking in and like the purses and all of the merchandise is not locked up properly, she's basically taking advantage of people that aren't having more precaution about their valuables," says a local mother, Angela Duke.

"To me- it shows that a kidnapper could walk in there you know, or anybody, and that's pretty scary for a mother you know," adds another mother Cindy Heburn.

School officials received a tip of Seward's whereabouts, and sheriff's deputies arrested her at the Residence Inn on Raymond Diehl Road ... ending her theft streak in the capital city.

"This person who came in on campus was challenged several times by our school staff and was directed to the office, but obviously our staff had no way to know that she had committed a theft," says John Hunkiar, chief of safety and security for Leon County schools.

Seward was released from state prison in May after serving 4 years for fraudulent use of personal ID and grand theft, and she's targeted teachers in Martin and Broward Counties before making her way here.

She's being held in the Leon County jail and could face several felony charges if convicted.

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UPDATE 12-10-2010 4:40 pm

Samara L. Seward Charged in Thefts from Leon County Elementary Schools

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has arrested Samara Leneece Seward, 31, and charged her in connection with thefts from area elementary schools. Seward was taken into custody at the Residence Inn located at 1880 Raymond Diehl Road after School Resource Deputies located her rented Cadillac SUV in the parking lot.

The School Resource Deputies were acting on a tip from a concerned citizen. Deputies notified detectives from the Financial Crimes Unit and they responded to the scene. FCU detectives conducted follow up interviews served a search warrant and collected physical evidence.

Sheriff Larry Campbell stated, “A case such as this one verifies the importance of us all sharing information and working together toward common goals. School Safety officials worked closely with deputies and then shared information with teachers, faculty and parents. That information produced tips that led to the arrest.”

The following is a timeline of the reported incidents:

- Monday, December 6, 2010 at 11:40 a.m. the suspect entered Astoria Park Elementary School and stole a wallet containing credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Monday, December 6, 2010 at 2:30 p.m. the suspect entered Riley Elementary School and stole a wallet containing cash, checks and credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:30 p.m. the suspect entered Desoto Trail Elementary School and stole a wallet containing credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. the suspect entered Roberts Elementary School and stole a wallet from an unattended classroom.

- Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. the suspect entered Sealey Elementary School and stole a wallet containing cash and checks from an unattended classroom.

This investigation is continuing and additional charges are likely.

Seward was taken to the Leon County Jail.

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UPDATED 12.10.10 1:19 p.m.

Authorities have arrested Samara Leneece Seward, the woman suspected of slipping onto five local elementary school campuses and stealing credit cards and cash.

Seward has been dubbed the “Buxom Bandit”

On December 8, 2010 the Leon County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance in locating the suspect in a theft from Astoria Park Elementary School. Since that time, deputies, detectives and school safety officials have discovered at least four additional incidents involving what appeared to be the same individual.

Seward has a lengthy criminal history, including mostly charges of grand theft, uttering forged instruments and fraudulent use of personal ID. She was released from prison in May 2010 after serving four years for targeting teachers in Martin County for identity theft. She also faced charges in Broward County accord to the BCSO.

Following a tip, Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives searched for Samara Seward, 31, in Pompano Beach and found her walking in the 700 block of NW 16 Court Thursday (7/1/10) afternoon. She was arrested without incident and is facing several charges for stealing the wallets of teachers throughout Broward County and fraudulently using their IDs and credit cards. Seward recently returned from a trip to Orlando. At the time of her arrest, she was using the ID of one of her latest victims: a Central Florida woman named Jennifer.

On May 27, Latoya Wallace-Morrison, a third-grade teacher at Pinewood Elementary School, went to the BSO North Lauderdale District Office to report her wallet had been stolen earlier that day from her classroom while she was escorting her class to dismissal. Her wallet turned up fourteen days later at a park with her ID and the IDs and credit cards of several other women inside.

Stay with WCTV for the latest on the story.

LCSO statement is attached above.

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UPDATED 12.9.2010 6:30pm by Julie Montanaro

A woman is slipping onto elementary school campuses all over Tallahassee and stealing wallets.

LCSO says she has stolen wallets from classrooms at five different schools this week. Astoria Park and Riley Elementary on Monday, Roberts and DeSoto Trail Elementary on Wednesday and Sealey Elementary today.

Detectives say the woman checks the doors of empty classrooms and then helps herself to wallets and credit cards she finds inside.

School employees district wide are now on high alert.

"To find out she was making her rounds in our district, that threatened the safety of the kids, that appalled me and we need to be vigilant about catching her," Astoria Park Principal Desmond Cole said.

The 5th grade teacher whose wallet was stolen at Astoria Park said she and her class were on a field trip when it happened on Monday. She says a woman called later in the day, claiming to be a police officer investigating fraud, and asking for more personal information. She says she got suspicious when the woman asked for her pin more than once.

School Safety Director John Hunkiar says schools have been ordered to be extra vigilant about making sure anyone on campus is wearing an id badge. He says the woman who is stealing wallets is crafty: she changes clothes to try to blend in with the school population and when confronted, she claims to be visiting a specific teacher and then engages in friendly conversation to avoid any suspicion.

John Hunkiar, Chief of Safety and Security says, "We've seen on the images that they are purposely being deceptive in terms of their movement so,.. We've heightened awarness. Our staff is being very vigillant and following up and making sure we have people in the halls challenging people making sure they're being directed to the office."

Hunkiar says there are no reports of the woman trying to enter a classroom with children.

LCSO believes the suspect is driving this black SUV, possibly a Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC.

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[UPDATE 12-9 4:06 PM --

On December 8, 2010 the Leon County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance in locating the suspect in a theft from Astoria Park Elementary School. Since that time, deputies, detectives and school safety officials have discovered at least four additional incidents involving what appears to be the same individual.

The following is a timeline of the reported incidents:

- Monday, December 6, 2010 at 11:40 a.m. the suspect entered Astoria Park Elementary School and stole a wallet containing credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Monday, December 6, 2010 at 2:30 p.m. the suspect entered Riley Elementary School and stole a wallet containing cash, checks and credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:30 p.m. the suspect entered Desoto Trail Elementary School and stole a wallet containing credit cards from an unattended classroom.

- Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. the suspect entered Roberts Elementary School and stole a wallet from an unattended classroom.

- Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. the suspect entered Sealey Elementary School and stole a wallet containing cash and checks from an unattended classroom.

The suspect is believed to be driving a black SUV, possibly a Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC.

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[UPDATE] 12-9 2:00PM --

Leon County Schools Safety Director John Hunkiar confirms that a woman who is slipping onto school campuses to steal wallets has now struck at five schools.

The woman hit Sealey Elementary today, Roberts and DeSoto Trail yesterday and Astoria Park and Riley Elementary on Monday.

Stay with WCTV for more on the story.

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UPDATED 12.9.2010 by Julie Montanaro

LCSO now reports that this same woman is suspected of walking on to three school campuses to steal wallets and purses.

LCSO Spokesman James McQuaig says the woman has made stops at Astoria Park, Riley and DeSoto Trail Elementary Schools this week, and in each case, is wearing different clothing.

During one stop, McQuaig said, she wore a black leather jacket, pink skirt and pink bedroom slippers ... and during another stop, was sporting a business suit.

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Tallahassee, FL - The Leon County Sheriff’s Office is requesting assistance in locating the suspect in a theft case that occurred on December 7, 2010, at 11:40 a.m. Detectives from the Financial Crimes Unit believe a black female entered Astoria Park Elementary School’s main office and gained access to a classroom. The suspect then took a teacher’s wallet from the classroom. The suspect left the campus in a black Cadillac SUV. Gift cards were purchased with the stolen debit card at Publix on Ocala Road and CVS Pharmacy.

The suspect in this case even made contact with the victim and identified herself as a law enforcement officer with the “Leon County Police Department.”

Anyone with information about this case or the identity of the person in these photographs (click on the photo icon above to see the pictures) is requested to contact the Leon County Sheriff’s Office at (850) 922-3300 or Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS (8477). Remember, Crime Stoppers does not want your name, just your information. You may be eligible for up to a $1,000.00 reward.


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