Anthony Johnson acted like a real snake! The brazen thief slithered under movie theater seats, plucked credit cards from the purses of unsuspecting patrons and then went on wild spending sprees.
“I’ve had some crazy cases, but none as bizarre as this,” the crook’s attorney, Frank Riccio II, told The ENQUIRER.
Johnson, 49, picked movies such as “Eat Pray Love,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” that he figured would attract an affluent female audience.
“He said they were million-dollar movies,” revealed Jamie Lynn McGowan, one of his two female accomplices. “He told me if I wanted to make real money I should go with him.”
When Johnson went into a theater, “he’d scan the place, like he was looking for somebody, with his head up, but his eyes would be down scanning for purses on the floor,” she said.
After choosing a victim, Johnson – a convicted felon known as “Hustlin’ Tone” on the streets of Philadelphia – would sit nearby, wait for the lights to go out, and then strike.
“He would crawl along the floor in the row behind the woman, reach under her seat for her purse, take out her wallet, remove her credit cards, put the wallet back in her purse and push it back with the woman none the wiser,” said his lawyer Riccio.
Sometimes, Johnson would repeat the procedure several times before he and his accomplices headed to a nearby motel room. There, he’d make up phony driver’s licenses in the victims’ names but with photos of his partners, who included Lashirelle Bryant.
Then the gang would go on a huge spending spree at stores like Target, where they used the stolen credit cards to purchase electronics, clothing and $1,000 gift cards.
They also shopped in two big Connecticut resort casinos – Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun – where they bought items like $800 Cartier sunglasses. Once, Johnson even picked up a $10,000 Rolex watch.
Later, the sticky-fingered creep would sell the items and pocket the gains.
Between 2008 and 2010, Johnson hit 30 to 40 movie theaters in Connecticut, along with theaters in five other states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts, said McGowan.
“A good weekend was $50,000 to $70,000 – $30,000 to $40,000 was a bad weekend,” she said.
The gang finally got caught when cops identified them from surveillance tapes at theaters that had been hit. They stood out because they often slipped out through a side door before the movie ended.
Johnson denied he was the thief, but McGowan and another female accomplice testified against him.
He was convicted in October on seven charges of using a stolen credit card and two charges of identity theft. He could spend up to 74 years behind bars, while his female accomplices face 36- to 42-month sentences.