Police have arrested a would-be scam artist who they allege left numerous written threats on women’s vehicles outside of department stores in the Northeast and South Philadelphia.
At least six similar cases were reported to police within two weeks, including two in the 7th Police District, two in the 8th Police District and two in South Philly. Three of the cases involved Target stores.
Alert security guards at the Target, 1 Mifflin St., helped police identify and locate the suspect outside of that store on Friday.
He was later identified as Paul Tyler, 53, of the 1000 block of W. Lehigh Ave.
The first reported incident occurred on May 30 at the Target at 11000 Roosevelt Blvd. According to Capt. Joe Zaffino, commander of the 7th district, a woman left the store and found a note on the windshield of her car.
The note said that the woman should leave her money, cell phone and jewelry in a bag on the ground behind the front driver’s side tire of the car or else her husband would be harmed physically. The note further ordered the woman to walk to a dollar store at the opposite end of the expansive parking lot.
The woman, 38, was not with a husband at the time. She did not comply with the demand and took the note into the store to report it to security. When she returned to her car, a second note containing similar demands and threats was on her window. She took the second note into the store, where Philadelphia police soon arrived to investigate.
The same thing happened to a second woman on June 9 at about 10:20 a.m., Zaffino said. The 34-year-old also opted not to comply with the note-writer’s demands and instead reported the incident to store security guards, who again notified police. Threats were made against the victim’s children instead of her husband.
Similar crimes also occurred on June 5 at Marshall’s, 9169 Roosevelt Blvd., and at Dress Barn, 9161 Roosevelt Blvd.
In South Philadelphia, the same thing happened to a woman at the Mifflin Street Target store on June 3, then again to another woman at A.C. Moore, 1851 S. Columbus Blvd., on June 6, according to Officer Christine O’Brien of the police department’s media relations unit.
In several of the incidents, parking lot security cameras filmed a man approaching victims’ unattended cars. Police identified him as the suspect.
On Friday, guards at the Mifflin Street Target spotted the man seen on the surveillance footage in the store parking lot. Police arrested Tyler nearby a short time later without incident.
Tyler allegedly was in possession of a stack of adhesive notepapers matching those left previously on victims’ cars. A demand note had been pre-written on one of the papers, a police source said.
Tyler has been charged with six counts each of theft by extortion and making terroristic threats. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org