Florida woman arrested in Westmoreland County, charged with vehicle break-ins, fraud
A Florida woman allegedly involved in a group that targets affluent suburbs for thefts and financial crimes is facing charges in Westmoreland County after cashing a stolen check at a Hempfield bank, according to state police.
Emily Elizabeth Helmer, 31, of Bradenton, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, access device fraud, theft and related offenses. She was being held in the Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bond.
Investigators from across the region connected several dots that led state police to file charges against her in Westmoreland County on Tuesday, according to court papers.
Numerous vehicles were broken into on Oct. 27 at North Park Lake in Allegheny County. Stolen from the vehicles were purses, identification cards, bank cards and cash, police said. A Gibsonia woman reported her identification card was stolen while she went for a run, police said.
That card was used about 40 miles away two days later at a Dollar Bank branch in Hempfield to cash a $1,925 check that was stolen during a different vehicle break-in on Oct. 19 in Lancaster County, according to state police.
After more vehicle break-ins on Oct. 28 in Bethel Park and Upper Saint Clair, police found two vehicles believed to be involved two days later in North Fayette. A small plastic bag containing numerous identification cards, bank cards and checks was thrown out the window of one of the vehicles as investigators attempted to pull them over, police said.
One of those cards belonged to the Lancaster woman who reported the vehicle break-in weeks earlier, police said. Helmer was found walking away from one of the vehicles and arrested on a warrant from Montgomery County for similar crimes, police said.
She told investigators that she was part of the Florida group that pays her in heroin and small amounts of cash, according to a criminal complaint. Male and female members of the group travel to an area, rent a vehicle and target parks, daycare facilities and fitness centers. The men would break into the vehicles and the women would use the identification to cash fraudulent checks.
Helmer did not have an attorney listed in online court papers. A Dec. 13 preliminary hearing is set.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .