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Police catch purse thief who attacked elderly woman in Phoenix and Tempe

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Posted at 1:00 PM, Aug 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-17 16:00:03-04

Police have arrested a man who stole purses from several elderly women in Phoenix and Tempe.

Court records show that the suspect would get close to the victim's by asking for directions then take their purses off their shoulders. One victim had her foot run over by the suspect.

Police report that on July 4, outside a store near Central Avenue and Baseline Road, 42-year-old Frank Robert Lopez Gracia circled the parking lot before asking a 64-year-old woman when the store opened. He then allegedly came out of his minivan and robbed the woman of her purse.

Police say the next day Gracia committed a similar crime, near 3rd Street and McDowell Road when he asked a 67-year-old woman for directions before grabbing her purse. The woman was dragged and had her foot run over by Gracia's van. 

Later that same day he allegedly struck again, outside the Food City store near 8th and Southern Avenues. Gracia reportedly grabbed the purse of a 65-year-old woman after asking for directions from the woman who was walking with her 10-year-old granddaughter. 

Police were able to track down Gracia by witness descriptions of the minivan. Police located and arrested him on August 10. Gracia had already served ten years in prison for a similar crime in 2003. Police have linked him to another purse snatch in Tempe in January.

Police say he got about $1,000 in cash in total. He's been charged with multiple counts of robbery and assault.