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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Accused of Robbing Minibus Passengers

City Crime Statistics*
June 13 -- June 19
Theft (total)691179
Apartment burglaries15710
Car theft205
For the Record
Car accidents206
    a) killed15
    b) injured223
Missing persons37
Bodies discovered65
*City police said that due to technical problems, statistics were missing for June 16 and June 19.
Source: Moscow police

It's easy to get distracted in marshrutki, those yellow or white minibuses that zip passengers around town a bit faster than public transportation for 15 rubles.

Even if you survive the Machiavellian game of musical chairs to avoid being the designated money conduit between the passengers and driver, you can still expect 10 ruble bills and loose change to be jammed in your face to be passed on, as well as all sorts of lightning-quick exchanges and consolidations ostensibly aimed at simplifying the payment process.

The loose change was apparently of little interest to three passengers detained Thursday near the VDNKh metro station. They took advantage of the havoc and cramped riding conditions to pickpocket other passengers for several months, police said Tuesday.

Policemen patrolling Yaroslavskoye Shosse thought something was amiss when three men who appeared to be of Caucasus descent hastily exited a downtown-bound minibus at a bus stop, police spokeswoman Yana Olifir said.

None of the three men had their documents on them, and as the officers checked their names against a database, a woman came out of the minibus and complained that her wallet was missing.

The woman told police that one of the men had struck up a conversation with her and that another had lifted the wallet from her purse, Olifir said.

A search of the men found the woman's wallet, and police arrested all three. The men, natives of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, have all been charged with theft and could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Olifir said she could not release the suspects' names due to an ongoing investigation.

Andrei Semenchikov, head of the Yaroslavsky district police precinct, said two of the suspects sold fruit and vegetables at Moscow markets and that the third sold cell phones. Police found several used cell phones, wallets and car stereos in the third suspect's apartment in the Moscow region, he said. The items are believed to be stolen.

It is standard practice among pickpockets in Russia and elsewhere to throw out wallets after removing the cash and bank cards.

Police have found two other people who are accusing the suspects of pickpocketing, Olifir said. "One was on a bus and the other on a minibus," she said.