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Admits to Balenciaga Theft

Thu, 09/22/2022 - 10:10
Durell Godfrey

Jamal Johns of Newark is the latest defendant to accept a plea deal for his part in a March robbery at the East Hampton Balenciaga, when five people made off with $94,000 worth of handbags from the luxe Newtown Lane retail shop.

Suffolk District Attorney Ray Tierney said Tuesday that Mr. Johns had pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree, a felony, for his role in the theft. Three others who took park in the brazen midday raid — Ali Harris, 28, Wazir Rodgers, 25, and Baseemah Davis, 34 — have already admitted to the same charge. Mr. Harris also admitted to possessing methamphetamine. The fifth member of the organized group, an unidentified woman, remains at large.

According to a statement from the D.A.’s office, the woman, Davis, entered Balenciaga around 1:30 p.m. on March 3 wearing a “pink ski-type mask over her face, and sunglasses.” She browsed around for a little while, with a cellphone to her ear, before asking a clerk to check on shoes she said she was interested in. When the clerk left the retail floor to see if her size was in stock, the others “rushed into the store and hurriedly began taking luxury handbags from the shelves.”

They raced out of the shop with 48 bags, dropping some of them as they fled, and jumped into a nearby Dodge Durango truck. East Hampton Village police followed, but gave up the chase when it endangered other motorists. A New York State trooper pursued the Durango on Sunrise Highway to Exit 62, where it headed north on Route 111 before merging onto the Long Island Expressway, at times breaking 100 m.p.h. The occupants ditched the car with a flat tire at Exit 69 off the L.I.E., nearly 40 miles from the crime scene.  

Three people ran into the woods; the other two remained at the car. Four of them were arrested; the woman in the pink ski mask got away. Police recovered 34 stolen bags. It remains unclear whether they found all of them. 

Mr. Johns will be sentenced on Oct. 18. The felony conviction carries a penalty of one to three years in prison if the defendant has no prior felony conviction; five to 15 years if there are priors. Mr. Tierney said in late March, when he announced indictments in the case, that Mr. Johns had convictions for burglary, bail-jumping, and grand larceny. “He’s a three-time felony offender.”

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