1 of 3 alleged 'puffy coat bandits' charged after caught on video stealing from North Side customers

ABC7 obtained surveillance video showing three men quickly taking someone's wallet before the individual even knew it was gone

Tuesday, February 21, 2023
1 of 3 alleged 'puffy coat bandits' charged; theft caught on video
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James Wilkins has been charged after the "puffy coat bandits" group was caught on video stealing from people at Del Seoul in Lincoln Park, Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One man has been charged with taking part in sneaky theft at a North Side restaurant.

Prosecutors say James Wilkins worked with two other men to rob people who were eating at the restaurant.

ABC7 obtained surveillance video from Del Seoul, a Korean restaurant in Lincoln Park, showing three men quickly taking someone's wallet before the individual even knew it was gone.

The thieves are commonly identified by their black puffy jackets and restaurant workers say people need to make sure they keep a close eye on their personal belongings.

It's over before you even realize what happened.

Three men in "puffy coats" are caught on camera inside Del Seoul in the 2500 block of North Clark Street during the lunch hour rush on a Saturday in early January.

The men distract the two people eating while a wallet is visible on the table.

One of the men shows a woman something on a piece of paper, covering the wallet, and then covertly taking it.

Quickly the thieves walk out before the two at the table even recognize what happened.

"I knew they were going to come eventually," said Shalyn Welch, who works at Gemini.

Gemini is another Lincoln Park bar and restaurant. Welch claims she's seen the men herself while on the job last Saturday night.

"I immediately knew who they were. They had their black, puffy coats on," she said.

Welch said the three men wanted to stand at the bar -- but weren't ordering drinks -- when one of them reached for a jacket.

"I just walked up there and was like, 'Excuse me, this isn't your coat.' And he just kind of laughed," Welch recalled.

She said the men quickly left after her manager said they were going to call the police.

"I just can't stand people who steal from the common man," Welch said. "You don't know what someone is going through."

"They are looking for easy, easy targets," said Sam Sanchez, with the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Sanchez said people need to keep their valuables close when enjoying a night out.

"Don't leave your purse on the table, don't hang it from the back of your chair -- even on the barstool. Put it in front of you, sit on your purse," he added.

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