Two shoplifting incidents this week that netted $15,000 in designer sunglasses from a Tanger Outlets store may be part of a larger crime spree at the Bluffton shopping center, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.
At about 8:30 p.m. April 11, three people took more than 40 pairs of sunglasses from the Sunglass Hut in Tanger Outlets 1 by stuffing the glasses into purses, the Sheriff's Office says.
At 4:30 p.m. April 13, three other people stole more than 30 pairs from the shelves.
Both thefts were caught on tape, and the Sheriff's Office released the surveillance footage Thursday, hoping the public could identify the suspects.
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It is unclear whether the thieves worked together or the thefts are connected, but investigators believe some or all of the suspects may also be responsible for several other recent thefts at outlet shops, a Sheriff's Office news release said.
Deputies interviewed other outlet employees, who said that some of the suspects' descriptions matched those of shoplifters at nearby stores such as Justice and OshKosh B'gosh, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
McIntosh said those incidents may not have been reported to law enforcement, and the amount of merchandise that has been stolen from Tanger Outlets isn't clear.
However, investigators suspect that the shoplifters may be from Georgia and are targeting outlet stores, she said.
Both shoplifting incidents at Sunglass Hut were similar: The suspects pilfered the brand-name sunglasses within minutes of walking in the door, leaving behind half-empty racks when they left, she said.
"I looked at the surveillance tape, and it's pretty blatant," she said.
Tanger general manager LaDonna Shamlou declined to comment on the investigation.
The video footage from the stores shows a black man in a white T-shirt and khaki shorts; a black female in a blue and white striped shirt and jeans; a black female in a white jacket; a black female wearing a pink ball cap; a black female wearing a cap, a dark top and white pants; and a black female wearing a white top and pink pants.