Aspen stores suspect fur thieves back in town | AspenTimes.com

Aspen stores suspect fur thieves back in town

Joel Stonington

Aspen fur stores fear the same group of thieves that struck in 2004 is back in town.Several shops reported suspicious behavior on Thursday, but it was unclear if anything was actually stolen.Hillis Furs, on the Hyman Avenue mall, called other fur sellers in the area to warn them after workers there suspected mischief. “[The thieves] came in but nothing happened here,” said Annie Buysse, the store manager at Dennis Basso in The Little Nell building. “Hillis called to warn us, and I said, ‘They just left here.'”Representatives of the stores the alleged thieves visited described the culprits as looking like “gypsies” or as coming from an “Arab background.” They said the scheme was similar to 2004, when two couples stole $120,000 worth of jewelry and fur from five stores. Then, one of the people would try to distract the shop owner by trying something on in the back while another person would stock up on goods under a jacket or dress. “If you’re in the retail business, you know when someone comes in to steal,” said Caroline Alper, co-owner of Alper Furs and Leathers Inc. “The woman was my height but she had a voluminous dress [on].”Mickey Alper, also co-owner of Alper Furs, said the people who came in were a mother and son, though he said in another store there was a mother and daughter who were part of the same group. “We were very busy when they came,” Mickey Alper said. “Had we let them, they would have stolen here.”Aspen police officers visited stores during the day Thursday, according to Buysse and other store owners. Aspen police said an investigation is ongoing and would not comment.Employees of Prada, Gucci and some of the other high-end retailers in town said they had not noticed any suspicious behavior.”They tried on different styles,” Buysse said. “I just had a feeling because I remembered last year. It reminded me of the gypsies who came last year. It’s amazing, it’s every summer.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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