CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A Chesterfield man says he was the target of a distraction scam during his routine trip to a local grocery store.

Walter Mapes, 86, told 8News he was shopping at a Publix on Hull Street when a man approached him, brushed against his back, and showed him a napkin smothered in honey mustard.

Mapes says the man claimed the mustard was smeared across his back, and offered to help clean it off in the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, though, Mapes realized something was off.

“He starts patting me down, probably trying to find my wallet or my money,” Mapes said. “There was a second guy in the bathroom. I didn’t know they were together and then a third guy watching the door. After this guy patted me down, I realized ‘Whoa this is a scam!'” 

He said he immediately yelled for the men to “stop.”

“I just said ‘wait a minute this is enough, leave me alone’ and the third guy stuck his head in the door and said ‘let’s go’ and the three of them left immediately.” 

Chesterfield police confirmed to 8News that they are investigating the incident, and believe it’s connected to a host of other recent distraction scams.

On July 3, a woman was leaving Wegmans when she was approached about an issue with her tire. Video obtained by 8News shows the woman examining the tire, as another person swooped in the driver’s seat and stole her purse.

“She had no idea it happened until she started receiving messages from her credit card company that someone was fraudulently using her card,” Lieutenant Russell Granderson with Chesterfield Police said.

He said these scams have been reported from Central Virginia up to Northern Virginia.

“We believe these are the same people doing it,” Granderson said. “It’s more than one. We believe it’s a small ring. They’re not going to stop until they’ve been arrested.”

Chesterfield Police has released a suspect photo with two individuals believed to be involved.

Police said the incidents that have been reported involve one or a few suspects approaching the victim, attempting to “help” them with something (something on their clothes, something wrong with their car, etc.), and stealing the victims’ wallets or purses while they are distracted. (Photo Courtesy: Chesterfield County Police Department)

In the meantime, there are some tips to keep you and your belongings safe.

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Remember to trust your gut
  • Remember that not everyone has our best interests in mind

If you recognize either of the suspected scammers, police ask for you to contact Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660 or