America's Most Wanted viewer in Thomasville helps solve case -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

America's Most Wanted viewer in Thomasville helps solve case

Posted: Updated:

March 5, 2008

Thomasville-- A woman from Poland with very quick hands managed to take cash from retail registers from South Georgia to New Hampshire. While her hands were quicker than the eye, her acts were caught on tape and now she is caught.  

The story starts here at the Thomasville Wal-Mart. Police say Irena Nowak, who's from Poland, stole more than $1,200 by confusing clerks who were giving her change.  In September, Thomasville Police Detective Toby Knifer got a break in the case.  "I was brought in when I was notified about an episode of America's Most Wanted where they were doing an update on a woman pulling a quick change scam," explained Knifer.

That woman was America's Most wanted suspect, Walentina Knapek.  Authorities thought they caught her at it again in New Hampshire, but it turned out to be Nowak, pulling the same quick-change scam.  She was arrested, and when Most Wanted ran an update that Knapeck was still on the loose, they also ran Nowak's picture.

When an employee from the Thomasville Wal-Mart saw the episode of America's Most Wanted he thought the suspect in question looked familiar.  Detectives say Wal-mart's surveillance tapes catch Nowak doing a similar scam. First, she'd buy a small item, with a large bill.

"During this time the suspect would change her mind numerous times, what type of denomination she wanted back as change.  And also she would confuse the clerk, talking about brain disorders or some kind of medical condition she might have," explained Knifer.  Continuously talking, an in a strong foreign accent, the clerk would get confused. 

In the scam, the suspect would reach over the counter and grab the money from the drawer, acting like they were showing the clerk what they wanted.   "Unbeknownst to the clerk, she would actually pull money out of the drawer, count out the bills she wanted and hand it back to her, but the clerk didn't realize she would actually take some of the bills on the bottom of the stac," Knifer said. 

 He was able to positively identify Nowak as the same woman arrested in New Hampshire.  She was extradited to Thomasville, where she now waits in the Thomas county jail.   After Nowak is fully processed in the Thomas County System, she is wanted for question by Immigration and Customs.