Shoplifting raid mastermind researched stores that have “hands-off” security policies, court records say

Two men who stole over $20,000 worth of merchandise from top retailers and then resold the products inside a Subway restaurant specifically targeted national retailers that have a “hands-off policy” toward shoplifters, according to court records.

The revelation came as charges were announced Friday against a second man in the scheme we first told you about last month.

Jerome Williams, 19, was charged with continuing a financial crimes enterprise and five counts of felony retail theft. His alleged co-conspirator, Semaj Bryant, was hit with similar charges in January.

Second chance probation

Williams and Bryant allegedly carried out a string of retail raids beginning on December 9, less than two months after a judge sentenced Williams to “second chance probation” for participating in a flash mob shoplifting heist at Ulta Beauty, 2754 North Clybourn, in Lincoln Park.

In that case, Williams and accomplices entered the store and “cleared multiple shelves of fragrances” valued at $2,723, prosecutors alleged in September 2020. Cops arrested him and an accomplice within an hour and found two laundry bags containing fragrances inside their car, according to CPD reports.

Hands-off policy

The new allegations involve a series of raids by Williams and Bryant at North Face stores in Wicker Park and on the Magnificent Mile and at the Sephora store, 958 West North Avenue, in Lincoln Park.

In court records, prosecutors said Williams and Bryant “conducted research online about retail companies who have a ‘hands off’ policy before they would enter a retail establishment.”

Prosecutors said that Jerome Williams’ criminal enterprise was built on shoplifting raids of North Face and Sephora stores. | Google; CPD

Prosecutors said Williams and Bryant worked together to steal:

  • $8,550 in clothing from North Face, 875 North Michigan on December 9
  • $4,993 in clothing from the same North Face on December 10
  • $3,080 in clothing from North Face, 1631 North Damen, on December 12
  • $2,493 in fragrances from Sephora on December 21
  • $2,520 in clothing from the North Face store on Damen on December 21

A break, then a bust

After the December 10 heist, Chicago police saw a getaway car associated with the theft sitting outside a Subway restaurant at 7908 South Halsted. The cops interviewed Bryant and Williams, who had “multiple coats,” but did not make any arrests, prosecutors said.

On December 21, two CPD detectives handling the North Face investigation were collecting surveillance video at the Subway when they heard loud noises coming from the dining area, prosecutors said.

The cops watched as Williams and Bryant emptied bags of cologne and North Face coats onto a table in the dining room, according to prosecutors. The detectives called in patrol officers to arrest the men.

It was not clear why charges against Williams were delayed until Friday.

His defense attorney said he is 19 and lives with his girlfriend and 19-day-old child. He works in a processing plant, she said.

Judge Maryam Ahmad ordered Williams held in lieu of $350,000 bail. He must post 10% of that to get out of jail. Separately, Ahmad ordered him held without bail until he appears before Judge Haberkorn next week so she can review his probation status.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is