NIAGARA FALLS — A mother, whose two little girls were briefly kidnapped by a car thief, was charged Monday with endangering the children.

Niagara Falls Police detectives said they charged Heidy M. Ortiz, 27, 1542 Pierce Ave., with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She had previously been cited for leaving a vehicle running unattended.

Detectives also said they are continuing to investigate the “unusual circumstances” surrounding the theft of Ortiz’s car on July 15. Investigators said that included efforts to identify and capture the car thief.

Patrol officers said they were dispatched to check out a report of a stolen vehicle on the 1800 block of Pine Avenue at 3:20 p.m. July 15 and as they responded they were told the victim’s two children were still in the 2007 Jeep Compass. The children were identified as girls, aged 1 and 6 years old.

Moments later, an unidentified individual contacted police and said two small children had just been “dropped off” on the 800 block of 17th Street. The children were then identified as having been in the stolen SUV.

Nearby surveillance cameras showed a male suspect, wearing a white shirt, blue jean shorts, white shoes and a camouflage hat, ride up to the SUV on a bicycle and look inside. The suspect then put his bicycle down in front of a storefront and jumped into the vehicle, which the victim had left parked and running with the children inside.

The surveillance camera video showed the suspect drive the SUV east on Pine Avenue, before turning north on 19th Street.

Police said the children were not harmed and suffered no injuries during the incident.

“Just as we had in the case in Buffalo last year (where two Niagara Falls teens were charged with stealing a car with a young child inside it), again this demonstrates why you should never leave kids in a car,” Detective Lt. John Conti said.

Some two hours after the theft of Ortiz’s vehicle, police were advised by officers from Buffalo Police Department that the Jeep had been found on the lower west side of the city.

Buffalo police said a man, identified as the Ortiz’s brother, told them that she had contacted him and told him about the car theft. The victim’s brother said he began looking for the vehicle and found it, occupied by two male suspects on the 200 block of Carolina Street.

After an argument with the suspects, the victim’s brother told police they gave him the keys to the Jeep and ran away.