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Three arrested in credit cards, clothing thefts

By By Adam Prestridge
A joyride to Escambia County was longer than anticipated for three Montgomery residents following a spree of thefts throughout Atmore and Brewton that landed them behind bars in the Escambia County Detention Center.
According to a spokesperson for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, Courtney Smith, 28; Tamela Moore, 26; and Brontina Smith, 27, were all arrested in Atmore and booked in the county jail on various charges ranging from first-degree unlawful possession of marijuana to second-degree theft of property.
Sgt. Eric Suarez with the Brewton Police Department said a call was received just before 5 p.m. Monday from a Winn Dixie employee stating that four credit card type gift cards had been stolen from the grocery store earlier that day.
"We were told that these girls came in and attempted to purchase some American Express gift cards, which were $100 apiece," Suarez said. "What is done is the clerks scan the cards and as soon as they scan them they are activated. The clerk scanned them and when she got ready for payment (the girls) said they had left their money in the car. The girls then handed the clerk four American Express cards that had already been used and said they were going outside to their car so they could pay for the other cards, which they took."
Suarez said the four cards the girls handed back to the clerk were ones that had either already been used or were new, inactive cards they apparently swapped without the clerk noticing. The girls never came back and fled the scene with the $400 in gift cards.
When the clerk realized the girls were not coming back, she attempted to credit the money back into the computer system, but to no avail.
"They had to have the original cards that were scanned to get the money out of the system," Suarez said. "The girls had the originals."
At approximately 4:40 p.m., a BOLO (Be On The Lookout) call was dispatched from the Atmore Police Department for a silver colored Chrysler PT Cruiser after two of the suspects attempted to pass the stolen American Express cards at the local Winn Dixie store. Within a few minutes, APD officers and an Escambia County Sheriff's Office deputy had the threesome hemmed up on Church Street in front of the Atmore Public Library.
All three suspects were detained at the scene and placed in the back of three separate police cars while officers searched the vehicle, which turned out to be a rental car. During the search it was discovered that there were several articles of clothing in the trunk of the vehicle that still had tags on them that had apparently been stolen. After further investigation, it was determined that the clothing had been stolen from several Dollar General Stores in the county.
"We don't know if it was the Atmore, Brewton or possibly the Flomaton Dollar Store," Suarez said. "It could have been stolen from several different stores. Nobody has done a report on the missing clothes or has called in stating they have missing merchandise, so we are unsure which stores all the clothing came from."
Among the stolen items were 19 pairs of pants, 18 shirts, 11 pairs of shorts, seven packages of bras and five pairs of socks. There were also several other credit card type gift cards in the vehicle aside from the four from the Brewton Winn-Dixie and a stolen driver's license.
In addition to the stolen goods, it was also discovered that the suspects had marijuana in the vehicle and two open Corona bottles in the front cup holders.
Courtney Smith was charged with felony first-degree unlawful possession of marijuana and third-degree theft of property. He is currently being held at the Escambia County Detention Center on a $5,000 bond.
Moore was charged with felony second-degree theft of property. She has three prior theft of property offenses. She was also charged with second-degree unlawful possession of marijuana and is being held on a $5,000 conditional bond.
Brontina Smith was charged with second-degree unlawful possession of marijuana and third-degree theft of property. She bonded out Tuesday morning.
The case is still under investigation.