Police arrest plus-size 'Hugging Bandit'

4:49 PM, May 16, 2007   |    comments
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Myra Castleberry, 48, was being held without bail and police hoped they had seen the last of a decade-long spree of thefts.

"Hopefully, she'll be hugging her pillow in her prison cell for a long time," Detective Sgt. Tom Donovan said Tuesday.

The Hugging Bandit targeted dozens of unsuspecting men outside bars over the years, distracting them in the wee hours of the morning by fondling them and then secretly stealing their wallets. She would use the victims' credit cards within hours of the thefts.

Castleberry, who has been arrested 17 times between 1998 and 2005 and has two felony convictions, was suspected in the thefts, but police said most victims were too drunk to identify her.

That changed when a Tonawanda man called police after reading a February newspaper account and reported he had lost $238 to the Hugging Bandit in August 2005.

"We set up a photo array, and he picked her out immediately," Donovan told The Buffalo News for its Wednesday edition. "He said, 'I'll never forget a face.'"

Police apprehended Castleberry Sunday night on a felony warrant charging grand larceny. She is scheduled to appear Friday in Buffalo City Court.

(Copyright 2007. The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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