By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Police say an investigation that began after a woman’s $18,000 purse was stolen while she worked out at Salem Fitness Center in late July has resulted in the arrest of two Dorchester residents suspected in a string of similar crimes.
Sarah Gordon, 27, and Shane O’Donnell, 29, were arrested in Westborough by state police Friday after a multi-jurisdictional investigation, said Salem police Capt. Thomas Griffin.
In total, Gordon was the subject of 18 warrants, and O’Donnell was the subject of eight. Each was wanted on a single Salem warrant with charges of larceny over $250 by single scheme, credit card fraud and identity fraud, Griffin said.
The local end of the investigation began after a woman reported on July 31 that items worth $21,265 — including an orange “Kelly” purse from Hermes — were stolen from her Mercedez Benz as she exercised at the gym on Swampscott Road.
The woman said she had placed her car keys on the center’s member key rack at 11:45 a.m., but that they’d disappeared by 1:45 p.m. Shortly thereafter, she discovered her car’s trunk had been ransacked.
The missing items also included a Prada makeup case, an iPhone 4 and five credit cards — one of which was used at the Target on Highland Avenue almost immediately after the theft.
When police followed up at Target, a security guard informed them that the two people seen on video footage using the stolen card were the same ones that other police departments had previously inquired about, Griffin said.
“He tipped us off that this was a lot bigger than one random thing,” Griffin said.
Officers reached out to other jurisdictions and determined that the man and woman had been perpetrating similar thefts involving gyms all over eastern Massachusetts. In some cases, they’d only steal a purse. At least once, they stole a vehicle, too, police said.
A meeting at Wellesley police headquarters this month culminated in warrants being issued for the two, who were eventually nabbed by the state police’s fugitive task force.
It’s unclear what their relationship is to each other, but Gordon and O’Donnell were definitely a “team,” Griffin said.
“They were basically on a crime spree, and we had to try and get them stopped as quickly as possible,” he said.
As for the fate of the $18,000 purse, Griffin said the department had alerted state police that they were interested in recovering it.
“If we can get that back, we certainly want to,” he said.
Sgt. Kristian Hanson and Detective Thomas Brennan led the investigation.
State police were unable to confirm the arrests last night.