Duo targets high-priced wine and champagne


Champagne is a hot-ticket item this time of year, but we're not talking about celebrations at two Randalls grocery stores. Thieves are going to the back of the store to the locked cabinets and picking out the most expensive stuff before leaving without paying a nickel.

At a time when many are in the spirit of giving, others are acting more like the Grinch, especially at one Randalls store. In the past month, police suspect a duo has hit the Memorial-area grocery store four times, each time targeting just one thing -- high-priced champagnes.

"I know that shoplifting goes on, but I would be surprised it goes on in an area like this," Randalls shopper Bill Crouch said.

Investigators believe the suspects not only hit the Memorial area Randall four times but also another Randalls at Westheimer and Gessner twice. Each time, the suspects stuff several bottles of Dom Perignon and Cristal into their baggy clothing.

"It's an unfortunate part of the business but we've gotten used to it," Spec's manager Carter Goodrich said.

Goodrich is the store manager of the mid-town Spec's, where bubbly sells from anywhere from $5 a bottle to $500. Their high-end champagnes like Dom, Cristal and Krug are kept under lock and key, and he can sympathize with what Randalls is going through.

"They're definitely popular, and being in the retail business, it just kind of comes with the territory. People tend to target things that are more popular," he said.

The Houston Police Department is looking into whether these two suspects may be responsible for additional champagne thefts. For now, their tally is running into the thousands of dollars, one bottle of expensive champagne at a time.

"Just as people are selling gold and people are selling their silver, they are going after things that can go quick and money. There's no serial numbers on it, they can get rid of it quick and get quick money," Randalls shopper Jo Ann Schwartz Woodward said.

Spec's employees says they've noticed that whenever celebrities or other high-profile individuals mention certain brands of alcohol, especially champagne, the interest in those certainly goes up.

The first suspect is described as a black male, 35 to 40 years of age, six feet tall and weighing 240 pounds.

The second suspect is described as a black female, 30 to 35 years of age and weighing 140 pounds. At the time of the offense she was wearing a multi colored shirt and blue jeans. The suspects were seen operating a white four door sedan of an unknown make and model.

Anyone with information regarding the identities of the suspects is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for any information called in to the 713-222-TIPS (8477) or submitted online at www.crime-stoppers.org that leads to the filing of felony charges or arrest of the suspect(s) in this case. Tips can also be sent by text message. Text TIP610 plus your tip to CRIMES (274637). All tipsters remain anonymous.

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