Prosecutors on Thursday filed aggravated robbery and retail theft charges against a woman who was allegedly part of a shoplifting crew that stole garbage bags full of merchandise from stores in Lincoln Park and the Loop this month. Police have repeatedly warned retailers about similar raids, and video of a recent incident surfaced earlier this week.
Bonnie Bowman, 31, is accused of helping raid Sephora, 938 West North Avenue, on September 16 and the Lids store, 125 South State Street the following day.
Bowman and two accomplices entered the Sephora, pulled trash bags from their pockets, and filled them with merchandise as witnesses and employees watched, Assistant State’s Attorney John Gnilka said. The trio allegedly escaped with $12,500 worth of products.
Detectives distributed surveillance images of the shoplifters to other officers, and one of them recognized Bowman, Gnilka said. A Sephora loss prevention officer also provided investigators with images from Bowman’s Facebook account resembling one of the shoplifters.
The next day, Bowman and a male accomplice allegedly donned ski masks as they pulled off a similar raid at Lids.
“You know why I’m here,” Bowman allegedly told a store employee before the couple filled trash bags with sports apparel.
Gnilka said a witness saw a firearm sticking out of her accomplice’s waistband during the crime, which caused store employees and witnesses to back away.
Police determined that the license plate on the shoplifter’s getaway car is registered to Bowman, Gnilka said.
On Tuesday, September 28, a security guard called 911 after he saw people wearing ski masks while sitting inside the same car near Lids, according to Gnilka. Police responded and arrested Bowman at a nearby bus stop.
She admitted to participating in the Sephora and Lids raids, Gnilka said.
“These [allegations] are not someone walking out with a candy bar from Walgreens,” Judge David Navarro told Bowman after hearing about the crimes. “This is high dollar thefts, organized in a fashion where thousands of dollars in merchandise are taken.”
He then ordered her held in lieu of $50,000 bail. She must post 10% of that to get out of jail.
Assistant Public Defender Suzin Farber said Bowman has three children and owns her own business.
Law enforcement officials believe the organized shoplifting teams are part of a much larger, national operation that sells stolen merchandise online at discount prices.