Police Seek Woman Who Stole Purse With $10K College Tuition Payment Inside

A mother left behind a purse containing her daughter's college tuition

A coffee run resulted in a heartbreaking loss for a family in Arlington, Virginia, when a mother left her purse behind in a Dunkin' Donuts -- inside, it had $10,000 cash meant to pay her daughter's college tuition.

Maria Esteves, her husband and their18-year-old daughter, Lili, were headed to Pennsylvania State University Jan. 10 when they stopped for breakfast at the Dunkin' Donuts on Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church, Virginia. They ate and left, and moments later, Esteves realized she had left behind her bag.

The family returned moments later, but the purse was gone -- complete with an envelope marked "Lili's tuition" with $10,000 inside.

"I was in shock. I could not believe what happened," Esteves said. "We were crying."

The devastated mother, who cleans houses, and her husband, a painter, worked years for the money to send their daughter to Penn State, they said.

Surveillance video from the Dunkin' Donuts shows a woman lifting the purse off the back of a chair. She picks up the purse, looks around and then tucks it into her own purse.

Fairfax County police said they hope the clear images of the woman inside and in the parking lot will lead to her arrest.

The suspect has long, dark hair and stands about 5-foot-7. She was driving a dark-colored SUV, believed to be a 2009 or 2011 Mitsubishi Endeavor.

Lili Ferrufino said she hopes the suspect turns herself in.

"I'd like her to know that she took it from a family, from a mom and dad, who did hard labor," she said. "I just hope that I get to see her and get to ask her why."

Ferrufino's parents dipped deeper into their savings to send her to her second semester at Penn State. Esteves said she hasn't given up on the possibility they will get the money back.

"In my heart, I have hope," she said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solves by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477, email or text "TIP187" plus the tip message to CRIMES/274637 or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

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