BUFFALO, N.Y. - She's a 200-pound-plus hugging machine, but her affection comes with a price. Police are warning men about the "Hugging Bandit," who heartily embraces men coming out of downtown bars and leaves them wallet-less. Dozens of men say they have been victims. Police say others are too embarrassed to admit it.

"She doesn't just go up to you and hug you," said Detective Sgt. Tom Donovan. "She actually grabs (them), tries to talk them into something more, and there goes their wallet."

The Hugging Bandit has been striking for about the past decade, typically between 2 and 4 a.m. She uses the credit cards she steals within hours of her theft, police said.

"As far as I can tell, she waits until it's late at night and these guys coming out of the bars are tipsy," Donovan said. "They're either going to their car or going to the hot dog vendor ... She makes sure they're rip-roaring drunk."


Officers believe she is a 48-year-old Buffalo woman they have arrested 17 times between 1998 and 2005 for similar schemes, as well as prostitution and criminal possession of stolen property.

Her most recent theft was early Sunday. A man told police a heavyset woman approached him for sex. When he said no, she gave him a hug and left _ with his wallet containing $25, his driver's license and debit cards.

On Wednesday, police showed the man a photo array that included the woman suspected in the case. The man admitted that he was too drunk to remember her.

http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2007/02/22/ap/strange/d8nf19301.txt