Chicago men plead guilty to shoplifting raids, selling proceeds at a sandwich shop

Chicago — Two men who allegedly stole over $20,000 worth of merchandise from top Chicago retailers and resold the products inside a Subway restaurant have pleaded guilty to felony charges, according to court records. One of them received probation. The other, who committed additional crimes while on “second chance probation” for a flash mob shoplifting incident, has been sent to prison.

Authorities said Semaj Bryant and Jerome Williams, both 19, specifically targeted national retailers that have a “hands-off policy” toward shoplifters.

Semaj Bryant (L) and Jerome Williams. | Chicago Police Department

The men allegedly raided The North Face store, 875 North Michigan, twice in December 2021, taking merchandise worth $13,543. Two days later, they took $3,080 worth of coats from The North Face in Wicker Park, prosecutors alleged.

Nine days after that, they returned to the Wicker Park store and took another $2,520 in clothing and went to Sephora, 938 West North Avenue, where they allegedly stuffed $2,493 worth of cologne into a garbage bag and walked out.

After each crime, Bryant and Williams drove to the Subway restaurant at 7908 South Halsted and offered the freshly-stolen items for sale at a table in the dining room, officials said.

But as they noisily dumped North Face and Sephora products onto their sales table on December 21, two Chicago police officers just happened to be in the restaurant’s back office, pulling surveillance video of their previous sales efforts, prosecutors said. The cops arrested them.

Bryant allegedly told police a friend recruited him to steal and sell jackets for $200 or less. He kept a percentage.

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

Court records show that Bryant pleaded guilty to one count of running a continuing financial crime enterprise in exchange for two years of probation from Judge Aleksandra Gillespie. Prosecutors dropped three felony retail theft charges in their deal with Bryant.

Two months before the crime spree, Williams pleaded guilty to being part of a flash mob that stole products worth $2,723 from Ulta Beauty at 2754 North Clybourn and got “second chance probation.”

Like Bryant, he has now pleaded guilty to operating a continuing financial crime enterprise plus two counts of felony retail theft. Judge Lorraine Murphy gave him a six-year sentence for each count, to be served concurrently.

After receiving a 50% sentence reduction for good behavior plus other credits, Bryant is expected to be paroled on February 14, 2025.

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