An 18-year-old man and an accomplice raided stores on the Magnificent Mile and in Wicker Park to steal over $10,000 in merchandise that they sold on a table inside a Subway restaurant in Auburn Gresham, prosecutors said.
Semaj Bryant and his unnamed accomplice were arrested when they walked into the restaurant with a bag of freshly-stolen merchandise as Chicago police detectives were in the store retrieving video footage of their previous sales efforts, Assistant State’s Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis said.
“Why in the world that Subway allows you to come back there each and every time to resell it, I don’t know,” a flummoxed Judge Charles Beach told Bryant during a bail hearing Wednesday afternoon.
Bryant and his partner entered The North Face, 875 North Michigan, around 5:30 p.m. on December 10 and headed toward the exits with armloads of winter coats, according to Kalliantasis and CPD records.
A store security officer tried to stop the men by blocking the revolving door, but they shoved the guard and dragged him as he tried to hold onto the store’s merchandise, according to Kalliantasis. The duo escaped with $4,992 worth of coats in a Honda Accord — but not before a witness made a note of the car’s license plate number.
Later the same evening, Chicago police saw the Honda parked outside a Subway restaurant at 7908 South Halsted. The cops interviewed Bryant and his partner, who had “multiple coats,” Kalliantasis said, but the men were not arrested.
Two days later, Bryant and his accomplice stole $3,080 worth of coats from The North Face in Wicker Park, Kalliantasis alleged. CPD surveillance video showed them arriving at the same Subway restaurant in their Honda Accord and removing garbage bags from the vehicle, Kalliantasis said. Video from inside the restaurant allegedly shows them dumping jackets and coats onto a table.
Then, on December 21, the pair entered Sephora, 938 West North Ave, stuffed $2,493 worth of cologne into a black garbage bag, and walked out, Kalliantasis continued. Once again, they allegedly drove to the Subway restaurant and walked in with the cologne and bags of North Face coats.
Both men noisily unloaded their goods onto the restaurant table, which attracted the attention of Chicago police investigators who were pulling surveillance video of their previous visits from the store’s security system, Kalliantasis said. The cops arrested them.
Bryant allegedly told police that a friend recruited him to steal jackets and sell them. He admitted to selling The North Face coats for $200 or less and keeping a percentage, Kalliantasis said.
It’s not clear why charges were not filed until today and no charges were announced against Bryant’s alleged accomplice. However, prosecutors did charge Bryant with operating a continuing financial crime enterprise and three counts of retail theft. He received juvenile probation for robbery in 2018, Kalliantasis said.
Beach, calculating that Bryant is charged with stealing $10,565 worth of merchandise, set bail at $100,000. Bryant must post a $10,000 deposit to get out of jail.
The judge highlighted that number for Bryant, saying it is “roughly equal to what you’ve stolen.”
It’s not over
The arrest of Bryant is not the end of The North Face store’s problems. Hours before he appeared in bond court Wednesday, two men broke into the retailer’s Wicker Park location and made off with armloads of coats around 3:53 a.m., according to police and witnesses.
The burglars, who traveled in a red Dodge SUV, are suspected of burglarizing three liquor stores early Wednesday, too: on the 1900 block of West Fullerton at 3:20 a.m.; the 4900 block of North Damen at 3:40 a.m.; and the 1100 block of West Taylor at 4:40 a.m. Cash registers and liquor were taken from the stores. According to a witness, the crew also tried to break into 1000 Liquors, 1000 West Belmont, around 2:48 a.m., but they were not successful.
As CWBChicago reported last week, CPD investigators now suspect that a group of men who have been breaking into mom and pop convenience stores and liquor stores across the North Side for months is also involved in high-end retail burglaries, including two recent break-ins at Burberry, 633 North Michigan.
The crew is known to carry guns and even fired shots at a man who stopped to watch what they were doing in Edgewater last month.
Prada hit again
A group of men pushed a security guard during a raid at Prada, 30 East Oak, around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a police report. The guard suffered a wrist injury when they threw him to the ground. Witnesses said four or five offenders fled the scene in two cars with the luxury retailer’s merchandise. Prada was also hit in a two-man raid on December 22nd.