Stealing Soho: Luxury retailers terrorized by shoplifting mobs

New York Post – by Dean Balsamini, Paula Froelich

Bands of shoplifters are terrorizing Soho’s high-end boutiques, lifting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of designer merchandise, and in some cases, threatening security guards to keep quiet — or be labeled racist, The Post has learned.

The disturbing pattern began in late May during the riots that rocked the city in the wake of the George Floyd police custody death. High-end Celine was looted of $1.5 million in merchandise then, and the blatant thievery continues “every week” in ritzy stores such as Prada, Moncler, Dior and Balenciaga, one plugged-in local said.

“This is happening every week. Walk around Soho on Wooster Street and Greene Street, Mercer Street. … You have huge bouncers out there trying to deter hit-and-run activity,” the source, a restaurateur, said.

But in some cases, the thieves are given carte blanche to steal.

“If they [store personnel] stop them and say anything in the store before they’ve left the building then it often gets turned into a racial accusation,” the source said.

“The brands … tell their employees to walk away,” the insider added. “They don’t want to be the next Instagram video claiming they are a racist brand.”

Soho store managers, especially those employed by national retailers, remain tightlipped for fear of ‘R-word’ reprisal, bad publicity or tarnishing their brand, the source said.

NYPD Sgt. Joseph Imperatrice, founder of Blue Lives Matter NYC, told The Post that investigators are aware that “mobs of young, transient groups” have “bulldozed through aisles grabbing as much as their arms can hold.”

A law enforcement source confirmed that “dozens of larcenies have occurred in recent months in high-end establishments in the neighborhood.” The source said the victimized stores include Adidas, Fendi and Burberry.

The suspects create a stir and grab as much merchandise as they can, confident they’re not going to face resistance or consequences, the same source said, adding “it’s a lucrative business.”

In the latest incident, thieves twice plundered Moncler on Prince Street — which sells down jackets for nearly $2,000 — on Thursday, Oct. 1, according to the sources.

In the first incident, two individuals grabbed nearly two dozen down jackets, the businessperson told The Post. A few hours later, at 6 p.m., thieves snatched “more than $50,000” in merchandise and sped off in a white Jaguar and a black Audi, the law enforcement source said.

The local restaurateur claimed “16 to 20 people” were involved in the second incident and the heist included a lookout.

Moncler was also hit Sept. 25, the law enforcement source said. A store spokesman declined comment.

On Sept. 30, three males entered French label Celine on Wooster Street at about 12:50 p.m. and took “more than $37,000 worth of merchandise” and fled in a dark Audi with New Jersey plates, the law enforcement source said, adding those individuals are part of a group now wanted for 12 high-end crimes — seven in lower Manhattan and five within the confines of the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side.

Some fed-up shops are now helping cops by giving descriptions and providing store surveillance video.

Sofiya Bukriy, 29, a manager at Louis Vuitton on Greene Street, said they keep the exit door locked to short circuit “young kids, who are grabbing and running.”

On Oct. 2 the NYPD arrested a Manhattan man apparently addicted to Prada. Ronald Howard, 34, was charged with three counts of grand larceny for allegedly lifting nearly $12,000 worth of Prada merchandise from the Broadway boutique in three different thefts between Aug. 24 and Sept. 12, the law enforcement source said.

Howard was back on the street after being issued a desk-appearance ticket, a law enforcement source said.

Citywide, grand larcenies have fallen 7 percent to 3,639 cases through Sept. 30, compared with 3,903 in the same period a year earlier, police said.

“The NYPD works to prevent theft of all kinds, including commercial burglaries and grand larcenies, by conferring with city businesses to promote physical protections and other best business practices,” NYPD spokesman Al Baker told The Post. “In the precincts, our Neighborhood Coordination Officers are personal points of contact with the community who can help when merchants are experiencing issues with crime and quality-of-life offenses. Additionally, detectives in precincts across the city work closely with our citywide Grand Larceny Division investigators on individual cases.”

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