Thursday, February 17, 2022

Retail theft is inflationary

‘Professional’ thief with 96 prior arrests busted again at NYC Target

A self-described “professional booster” with 96 arrests on her record was nabbed again this week for allegedly stealing from an Upper East Side Target — and then released at her arraignment on Thursday, The Post has learned.

Michelle Mckelley, 42, allegedly boasted about her “hustle” at the store on Third Avenue near East 70th Street, telling cops, “I haven’t got caught in a long time,” after her latest bust Wednesday, prosecutors said in Manhattan Criminal Court.

“I’m a professional booster. Y’all are stopping my hustle,” the serial shoplifter allegedly told officers.

Speaking to The Post after her hearing, Mckelley unabashedly described how she “professionally obscures” items — including the red shirt she wore in court.

“I have to get a new outfit … so I have to go work,” Mckelley said when asked if she’d continue.

“I don’t call it stealing, I call it professional boosting,” she added matter-of-factly.

Michelle Mckelley,
Michelle Mckelley, who calls herself a “professional booster” with 96 prior arrests, was arrested for allegedly robbing a Target. 

Police sources said Mckelley has 96 prior arrests, mostly for petit larceny, a misdemeanor that is not eligible for monetary bail under state law. She has at least four other open cases, one for robbery, a felony, and three for misdemeanors.

She was out on supervised release in another petit larceny at the time of the bust — and also had seven open bench warrants, prosecutors said.

The brazen “booster” has one felony conviction, two misdemeanor convictions and has failed to show up to court at least 27 times.

On Sept. 16, she allegedly also stole several items from the Upper East Side Target, including socks and bottles of Tide, before returning Dec. 11, to grab some clothes, according to a criminal complaint.

Michelle Mckelley
Michelle Mckelley even boasted of “boosting” the red shirt she wore to court. 
Steven Hirsch

“You’re not asking for bail, people?” Judge Rachel Pauley asked prosecutors after they put in a request for supervised release.

Mckelley’s public defender supported the request, saying her client was complying with supervised release until around Dec. 1, when she became homeless.

“I’m just not convinced she’s going to comply,” Pauley said, citing Mckelley’s 27 failures to appear.

But still, the judge agreed to free Mckelley under the supervision of the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services (CASES). She warned Mckelley not to miss a single appointment, not to get arrested again and to make sure to show up to her next hearing, otherwise a judge could issue a warrant and set bail.

Michelle Mckelley
Michelle Mckelley was on supervised release at the time of her most recent arrest. 
Steven Hirsch

Also on Thursday, the same judge also ordered supervised release for another alleged serial thief, Stephanie Lindao, who police sources said has 72 arrests on her record, most of them for petit larceny and burglary.

Lindao, 33, is accused of hitting up the Target at 500 Grand Street in the Lower East Side three times just this month, on Feb. 8, Feb. 10. and Feb. 11, taking items including soap, detergent and clothing, according to a criminal complaint.

She has 21 misdemeanor convictions and 12 failures to appear, as well as several open cases, prosecutors said, while still requesting supervised release.

Michelle Mckelley
Michelle Mckelley has been charged with petit larceny. She has failed to appear in court at least 27 times. 
Steven Hirsch

“She shows a total inability to follow a court’s order,” Pauley said after learning Lindao hadn’t shown up to a single appointment with the CASES program she’d previously been instructed to attend. 

“Your honor, she will go today,” Lindao’s Legal Aid lawyer, Khushboo Sapru, vowed, as her client added, “I will go. I promise.”

The hearings came after Pauley set monetary bail Tuesday for another alleged serial thief, Jamel Pringle, who was busted for stealing from an Upper East Side Rite Aid this week — and who has 167 arrests on his record. Pringle’s priors include one case in which he allegedly threatened two people with a stick, telling them, “I’m going to kill you.”

Prosecutors had requested $5,000 bail in that case, citing an amendment to the law that allows repeat offenders who commit a new felony or class A misdemeanor while out on a similar offense to have bail set if both crimes involved harm to a person or property.

Michelle Mckelley
Michelle Mckelley told the Post that she intends to “boost” herself a new outfit after being released from court. 
Steven Hirsch

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately comment on why they requested bail in Pringle’s case but not in Mckelley’s or Lindao’s.

Stores across the Big Apple have seen a recent rash of thefts — some of which have turned violent.

A police official said many of the shoplifting incidents involve people lifting items from big-box stores or pharmacies and then reselling them to bodegas.

“Our normal stuff that we’re looking at here … is the organization of one or two,” the official told The Post. “That’s a very quick turnaround. And you only have to go, like you know, to the nearest store that you’ve done business with before.”

On Tuesday morning, a shoplifter scuffled with a security guard at a Manhattan Duane Reade — right in front of a Post journalist and photographer there to report on an earlier armed heist at the same store.

And last week, a thief attacked a female store employee who confronted him for pilfering products from a freezer at a Morningside Heights Duane Reade, cops said. 

The man allegedly punched the 21-year-old worker in the face, grabbed her hair and threw her to the floor, according to the NYPD.

Ashley Barrs, a security guard at the Upper East Side Rite Aid Pringle was accused of hitting up on Monday, called him a “regular” at the store — which she said gets targeted by thieves five to 10 times a day.

“These thieves do as they please,” Barrs, 22, told The Post on Tuesday. “Some of them actually greet me, say, ‘Good morning’ and proceed to go steal.”

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