CHICAGO — Two members of a burglary team that prosecutors said may be responsible for more than 200 business break-ins across Chicago, including two at the Burberry store on Michigan Avenue, have pleaded guilty to a host of felony charges.
Prosecutors estimated that businesses lost $190,000. Burberry alone lost about $150,000 to the group, which specialized in overnight break-ins at stores ranging from mom ‘n’ pop convenience shops to exclusive boutiques. In a particularly brazen, or perhaps coincidental move, the burglary team once dumped stolen cash registers and other booty on Astor Street, directly in front of Gov. JB Pritzker’s mansion.
Butts has now pleaded guilty to nine counts of burglary in exchange for ten concurrent 10-year sentences from Judge Charles Burns, according to court records.
Harper pleaded guilty to 12 burglaries in May, receiving ten years each from Burns. Those will also be served concurrently. Last week, Harper pleaded guilty to four more cases from the suburbs before Judge Ramon Ocasio and again received ten years on each count. It is unclear from court records if the suburban sentences will run concurrently with the 12 city cases.
Butts was on parole when he allegedly told police that the crew broke into about 200 businesses across Chicago and the suburbs during the winter of 2021/2022, including two raids of the Burberry store on Michigan Avenue.
During his bail hearing, prosecutor Lukas Kalliantasis detailed some of the crew’s activities. On January 4, 2022, Butts, Harper, and two accomplices pulled up to Burberry, 633 North Michigan, at 5:52 a.m. and pulled on the front door until it burst open. They all ran inside, stealing bags and shoes worth $70,000.
Kalliantasis said Butts admitted to stealing from the Burberry store on a Facebook video. After his arrest, Harper allegedly showed detectives pictures of the purses he stole from the store on his phone.
More break-ins came two days later. At Apple Bite, 2919 North Broadway, they took $5,550 worth of cash and booze. They moved to Belmont Harbor Market, 401 West Belmont, and took another $2,500 worth of alcohol. Video from the store showed Harper wearing a Moose Knuckles-brand coat during the break-in and a female accomplice hauling out a trash can full of liquor, Kalliantasis said.
They all fled in a Dodge Durango that, minutes later, pulled up in front of the home of a “prominent Illinois politician,” according to Kalliantasis. The politician, of course, is the governor.
Surveillance video from the Pritzker’s neighbor in the 1400 block of North Astor showed four people dumping cash registers, garbage cans, and cash wrappers taken from the night’s earlier break-ins.
After unloading their trash in front of the governor’s mansion, the crew again pulled on Burberry’s door until it broke and escaped with another $80,000 worth of purses, bags, and coats, Kalliantasis said.
Butts was also accused of breaking into a jewelry store on the 3600 block of West 26th Street to take merchandise worth $5,000 and burglarizing a grocery store on the 5800 block of West North Avenue of $6,200 in goods.
Police gained a big break in the case on January 17, 2022, when 27-year-old Emma Murphy was involved in a car crash in Oak Park.
Inside Murphy’s car, Oak Park cops allegedly found inventory taken in the jewelry store heist earlier that day. Also in the vehicle: merchandise from a FootLocker that was burglarized on the 2700 block of North Narragansett around 1 a.m. the same day, prosecutors said. The price tags were still attached, and the clothes were still on their hangers, according to the allegations.
Chicago cops were particularly intrigued by an article of clothing Murphy allegedly had: a fur headband from the high-end winter clothing retailer Moose Knuckles, whose location just a few hundred yards from the Mag Mile had been targeted by late-night raiders twice — including once within minutes of the January 4 break-in at Burberry.
Prosecutors charged Murphy in connection with some of the break-ins last summer. Her cases are still pending.
Using the name “Raymoney Stacks” on Facebook, Harper posted videos and photos of merchandise, including a $1,995 Dolce & Gabbana purse, Gucci sunglasses, Nike merchandise still on its hangers, and a trunkload of sports gear that he offered for sale. One of the videos, which has since been removed, featured a man who looked very much like Butts.
“I got over 1,000 hats,” he said in one video, posted on November 1, 2021.
Prosecutors alleged that other videos showed Harper driving around with the crew before the break-ins. In another clip, he lined up bottles of alcohol, which he proceeded to pour on a grave.
“Maximum conditions recommended”
Harper had another burglary case pending when he participated in the store break-ins. In March 2021, he was allegedly caught on video using a rock to break into Red Star Liquor, 2725 North Milwaukee, to steal cigarettes and liquor.
A police officer familiar with Harper recognized him from surveillance video based on his face and neck tattoos, a prosecutor said at the time.
Court records show that a pretrial services advisor recommended that Judge David Navarro give Harper “maximum conditions” if Navarro decided to release him on bail. The court officer said if the judge released Harper, the likelihood of him committing a new offense or not appearing in court were both at level 6, the highest possible.
Instead of maximum conditions, Navarro set bail at $5,000, which allowed Harper, who prosecutors said had a pending robbery case, to get out of jail by posting a $500 deposit.
News reports indicate that Harper was arrested in Northbrook in 2017 for allegedly filing a false police report that officials believed was an attempt to distract officers from a “flash mob” shoplifting incident unfolding in the city.
In November 2019, a Melrose Park police officer “unintentionally” fired his gun into the ground while chasing Harper after a shoplifting incident, a city spokesperson said at the time. Harper pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of one day.