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Guilty Plea in Handbag Heist

Wed, 08/17/2022 - 10:42

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney has secured a guilty plea from the first of five people accused of stealing $94,000 worth of handbags from the luxury retailer Balenciaga in East Hampton Village in March.

Mr. Tierney announced Tuesday that Baseemah Davis, 34, of Newark, N.J., pleaded guilty that day to second-degree grand larceny for her role in the midday heist. Three other defendants' cases are still pending, while one more person, a woman whom police have not identified, remains at large.

Second-degree grand larceny carries penalties of one to three years in prison if a defendant has no prior felony convictions, or five to 15 years if there are previous convictions. Ms. Davis also pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, a felony that carries the same potential penalty, and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.

On the afternoon of March 3, Ms. Davis and four others, including Jamal Johns, 26, Ali Harris, 28, and Wazir Rodgers, 25, all of Newark, are alleged to have robbed Balenciaga of dozens of high-end purses. According to Mr. Tierney, while the unidentified woman distracted a sales clerk by asking to see a pair of shoes, Ms. Davis, Mr. Rodgers, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Johns rushed into the store and began grabbing handbags from the shelves.

They then fled in a Dodge Durango, pursued at first by village officers and later by state troopers on Sunrise Highway and the Long Island Expressway. Troopers were able to catch up with them after they exited the expressway at exit 69 and fled on foot; they had been driving at high speeds, often in excess of 100 miles per hour, and there was smoke coming from the back of the Durango. Thirty-four of the stolen purses were recovered.

"We will not relent in holding those who steal the property of others, accountable," Mr. Tierney said in a statement. "Not only did this defendant and her alleged accomplices go into a retail store and brazenly take items off the shelves, they put the safety of others at risk in their attempts to flee from law enforcement. This could have ended tragically. The message here is clear: Organized retail theft in Suffolk County will not be tolerated."

Justice Anthony Senft of Suffolk Criminal Court will read Ms. Davis her sentence on Sept. 23. Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Harris are due to appear there tomorrow, while Mr. Johns's next court date is Sept. 23. The latter three defendants, who are charged with the same offenses to which Ms. Davis pleaded guilty, remain in police custody.

"An investigation to locate the unidentified female is ongoing," the D.A. said.

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