Theft Ring Allegedly Employed Children As Young As 9 To Target High-End Stores: REPORT

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Philadelphia Police dismantled a significant alleged retail theft ring that allegedly used 9-year-olds to steal from stores in the city and its suburbs, officials announced on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Police Department Inspector Raymond Evers told NBC Philadelphia that the group was taken down following the arrests of Janiyah Robinson, 19, and Ayonna Robinson, 24, on Thursday, May 30. Robinson, the alleged ringleader, allegedly recruited children and teens to leverage their clean criminal records, according to NBC Philadelphia.

Evers highlighted that a nine-year-old girl was allegedly used at least twice in the alleged thefts, unbeknownst to her parents. He condemned the alleged use of minors in these crimes, calling it “a disgrace.”

The group allegedly focused on targeting Lululemon stores, as well as high-end stores like Givenchy, according to the police report obtained by NBC Philadelphia. Their alleged method reportedly involved swiftly entering stores with garbage bags, filling them with expensive items and fleeing in under two minutes. (RELATED: Lululemon Founder Says ‘Unhealthy’ People In Ads Are ‘Not Inspirational,’ Blasts ‘Diversity And Inclusion Thing’)

Due to how quickly the alleged thieves operated, Evers said, “By the time the police arrived, they were gone.”

Charges reportedly have been filed against both women for theft and related offenses, and police are actively seeking seven additional suspects. The crew’s alleged activities, dating back to November 2023, have resulted in significant losses for the targeted businesses, police said, according to the outlet. The crew allegedly targeted a Lululemon store in Philadelphia so many times that the store reported losses exceeding $40,000, while a single incident in Lower Merion Township saw alleged thefts of about $10,000 worth of merchandise.

The total damages attributed to this crew are estimated at $75,000. The allegedly stolen goods were often sold in bars and online, exacerbating the impact on the local retail community. Investigations continue as police review surveillance footage to determine the full extent of the crew’s alleged activities.

Officials stated that retail theft has been a persistent issue in the area, with Lululemon stores experiencing at least three robberies in one week, according to NBC Philadelphia. At least one police pursuit was reportedly prompted by a string of retail thefts in the area, resulting in a tragic accident at the end of April, with one pregnant teenager and three adults killed as a result.