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Thieves Targeting International Travelers at O’Hare

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Thieves are targeting international travelers at O’Hare International Airport, including a that bag contained all the money and gold that man intended to give his bride for her dowry. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) - There have been some unusual thefts at O’Hare International Airport. The passengers being targeted are leaving Chicago and traveling internationally, only to have thousands of dollars and gold stolen before they depart.

As CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli reports, part of what makes the thefts so unusual because the thefts are happening at the ticket counters almost immediately as travelers arrive at the airport, rather than at the security screening area where one might think it would be easier for a thief to operate.

Anaam Zayyad and her son, Jamel, were on their way to Jordan so Jamel could marry and bring back his wife.

While they were checking in at O’Hare, Anaam set down her handbag while she talked with the airline officials. That’s when a thief pounced.

“It happened within 45 seconds. He creeped up behind her and grabbed her bag and walked away,” Nasreen Zayyad said.

The bag contained all the money and gold that Jamel intended to give his bride for her dowry and the cash needed to bankroll their wedding celebration. Anaam’s wedding gold was also stolen. The dollar value was so high that the wedding was postponed.

During the same weekend the Zayyad’s were victimized, two other women were also targeted at the same ticket counter.

“It’s emotional thinking that you can blink and all of your lifesavings is gone and you have to start all over again,” Zayyad said.

“They informed us that this is an ongoing problem with the Arab community with Arab women being targeted,” attorney Zaid Abdallah said.

Abdallah and Zayyad believe that is because thieves know that people travelling to the Middle East and the Arab world often carry much more than the typical traveler.

“They know Middle Eastern people carry a lot of valuables when they leave. This is like the gold rush,” Ahmad Zayyad said.

Police confirmed that Royal Jordanian have been targeted recently.

“People going to Jordan sometimes carry large amounts of cash. We’ve had three thefts in that line,” said Commander Thomas Argenbright of the Chicago Police Airport Law Enforcement.

Argenbright suspects the same thief is responsible for all three crimes. He is somewhat confident that the Zayyads will get justice, but he has asked the family to be patient as the investigation continues.

Some surveillance video was captured in the case, but while the wide shot was clear, it pixelates on closer examination, police said.

As for overall thefts at O’Hare, Argenbright says they are actually on pace to be the lowest in more than 10 years.

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