Second Member Of Gang That Robbed East Hampton Balenciaga Pleads Guilty - 27 East

Second Member Of Gang That Robbed East Hampton Balenciaga Pleads Guilty

Security Footage Of The Theft
icon 1 Video & 1 Photo

Security Footage Of The Theft

Wazir Rodgers

Wazir Rodgers

T.E. McMorrow on Aug 19, 2022

The second of five suspects accused of targeting the Balenciaga store on Newtown Lane in East Hampton Village earlier this year pleaded guilty last week.

Wazir Rodgers, 25, agreed on Friday, August 19, to a deal offered by District Attorney Ray Tierney’s office: In exchange for pleading guilty to two felonies, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, he will serve three to nine years in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s office.

The plea was entered in the Suffolk County Courtroom of New York State Justice Anthony Senft, who approved the deal.

Last week, Baseemah Davis, 34, pleaded guilty in the same courtroom to the same charges, as well as a misdemeanor drug possession charge. She is to receive a slightly lighter sentence than Rodgers, two to six years. However, Davis has two separate cases involving felony charges still open in Nassau County, including grand larceny, which could add to her ultimate prison time.

There are four co-defendants, all in custody, who have been identified as being from Newark, New Jersey, though have given other home addresses after prior arrests. A fifth suspect is still at large.

As part of the process of entering a guilty plea, Rodgers, under questioning from the prosecuting attorneys handling the case, James O’Rourke IV and Johanna Poremba, admitted under oath to the elements of the crime: That he was one of five to swarm into the couture clothing and accessories store early in the afternoon on March 3, taking just over 30 seconds to steal handbags with a total value of almost $94,000, then escaping as a mob, and that he was in possession, along with the rest of the group, of that stolen property before fleeing the gang’s broken-down get-away car near Exit 69 of the Long Island Expressway.

The getaway car, a Dodge Durango, was pursued by East Hampton Village Police westward on the two-lane Montauk Highway. But at speeds of 100-plus mph, with the Durango dodging back and forth across lane lines and into the oncoming lane of traffic, police broke off the chase, fearing for the public’s safety.

The Durango was spotted by a State Trooper about 45 minutes later, headed north on Route 111, toward the Long Island Expressway. The trooper gave pursuit, but, again, at high speeds as they approached Manorville, causing the trooper to break off the chase.

But now there was smoke coming from the rear of the Durango. The trooper followed at a safe distance.

The Durango entered the expressway at Exit 70, but did not make it past exit 69, where it broke down. Davis, along with two other members of the gang, Ali Harris and Jamal Johns, according to authorities, fled into a nearby wooded area. A manhunt ensued for them, and they were soon rounded up. Rodgers, fleeing the Durango, was pursued on foot by the trooper, who apprehended him.

A fifth member of the gang, a woman who wore a pink ski mask when she entered the store and was smartly dressed enough that she was able to distract the lone employee visible in the shop at the time to set up the smash-and-grab spree, escaped, and is still being sought by police.

Harris and Johns will have their opportunities to take a plea or go to trial on the same charges their co-defendants have already pleaded guilty to over the coming weeks.

The legal ramifications for the two are quite different.

Jamal Johns, 25, already has three felony convictions on his record, including grand larceny, burglary, and bail jumping, according to Tania Lopez of the D.A.’s office. Johns was sentenced to 5 years probation in Manhattan in April 2021.

Ali Harris is the only member of the group that does not have a criminal record, save for a conviction as a youth, a case in which the record has been sealed.

Swarming gangs robbing stores has become more and more common recently. But they generally occur in urban settings.

Last week, for example, on Webster Avenue in the Fordham Heights section of the Bronx, Rocco’s Jewelry was targeted by a gang of four people, smashing display cases and ransacking the store, getting away with an estimated $2 million. That midday smash-and-grab theft was caught on video, as was the one at the Balenciaga store. Both took just a bit over 30 seconds to complete.

In the case of the robbery in the Bronx, the thieves were able to escape into the crowd on Webster Avenue, according to the New York Police Department.

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