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Elderly woman dubbed 'the hugging bandit' pickpocketed victims after pretending to know them, police said

Kathy Stevens is being held in a Florida jail on more than a dozen charges from Clearwater police and other agencies across the Tampa Bay area.

An elderly Florida woman is accused of pickpocketing strangers by pretending she knew them and while giving them a hug swiping their credit cards and wallets, police said.

Kathy Stevens, nicknamed "the hugging bandit" by police, is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on more than a dozen charges from the Clearwater Police Department and other law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area.

Stevens, 65, allegedly targeted older men and would approach them outside of stores. Clearwater police said she would act like she knew the men, give them an unwanted hug, and steal items from their pockets.

In one October incident, Stevens allegedly walked up to a victim and gave the victim a hug while reaching into a back pants pocket, according to an affidavit. The victim told the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that after the strange encounter, the victim noticed a credit card was missing from their wallet.

The victim had just used the card and said it "was in a position in the wallet which could have easily been accessible," the affidavit states. The identity of the victim was redacted from the complaint.

The sheriff's office said Stevens allegedly spent nearly $1,000 on the stolen credit card.

Stevens is connected to at least four incidents in the Clearwater area, police said. It's not clear if she has obtained an attorney.