CLEVELAND — A Bedford woman who stole 18 wallets from mostly elderly victims at grocery stores in Cuyahoga, Lake, Medina and Portage counties has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Carlene McSwain, 57, previously had pleaded guilty in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to multiple counts including identity fraud, money laundering, aggravated theft and theft.

“This serial thief was like a shark in the water, striking at least 18 vulnerable victims when they least expected,” county Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said Tuesday in a news release after the sentencing. “She has nobody to blame but herself for her 15-year sentence.”

The victims, averaging in age of 74 years old, reported that their wallets were stolen from their purses while shopping at grocery stores. Some victims mentioned they were approached by another shopper who engaged in conversation or offered to help them read grocery labels.

The thefts were reported between July 2018 and November 2018 in Middleburg Heights, Sagamore Hills, Strongsville, North Olmsted, Broadview Heights, Rocky River, Eastlake, Medina, Solon, Parma and Ravenna.

Detectives from multiple police departments conducted investigations that linked the incidents to Carlene McSwain and her 38-year-old daughter, Tawana McSwain. Video surveillance helped identify both defendants and their vehicle.

After stealing the wallets, the defendants were accused of using the credit cards, gift cards, and cash to purchase iPads, smart watches, Xboxes, and other items at retail stores.

Tawana McSwain is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for a pretrial hearing. She faces charges of identity fraud, theft, money laundering and complicity.