Eight Hartford-area residents have been indicted on charges that they ran a brazen “grab-and-go” theft ring that snatched tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from stores across the Northeast late last year.
The group has been charged with stealing almost $65,000 worth of clothes and accessories during at least 11 robberies of retail stores from Balenciaga to T.J. Maxx, court records show.
Four of the accused have been arrested but four remain at large and wanted by the FBI, including 26-year-old Hartford resident Andres “Coolie” Barclett, who should be considered armed and dangerous, the FBI said Thursday.
A grand jury returned a six-count indictment against the accused crew in September following a months-long investigation named “Operation American Steal” that began last fall after authorities linked a series of robberies across Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
The scheme was simple and effective: One or more members of the crew would enter a store as if they were normal customers but would instead grab as much merchandise as they could carry and sprint outside to a waiting getaway car, prosecutors said.
The group hit multiple Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Macy’s, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx and Dick’s Sporting Goods locations across all five states, sometimes stealing from the same store more than once. They would then drive the merchandise back to Connecticut to store in their cars, homes or storage units to either keep for themselves or sell online.
Tashanique Blizzard, 25; Jordan Braithwaite, 23; Jezenia Miller, 21; and William Tisdol, 20, all have been arrested for their role in the scheme, federal prosecutors said.
Paige “Ishaya” James, 27; Jahliil “Stretch” Parrott, 23; Asia Ryan, 21; and Barclett all remain at large, the FBI said.
Anyone with any information about their whereabouts is asked to call 203-996-4132 or 860-993-5499.
The federal indictment charges the group with 11 specific robberies in October and November of 2019, but court records do not indicate how many other thefts investigators believe may be connected to the ring.
The group was tied to three repeat robberies of the Ralph Lauren store in New Canaan in October 2019, for example, that are not listed in the indictment. In less than a week, the group stole more than $11,300 from the store using the same grab-and-go scheme.
The group tried to pull off a fourth robbery at the store but ran into an off-duty police officer stationed at the store, prompting a short pursuit with on-duty police officers called to the scene, police said at the time. The driver of the getaway car struck a police car and ultimately crashed, ditching the car and eluding police in a nearby neighborhood.
That incident connected New Canaan police to the newly formed multi-state task force that had started to investigate the emerging string of similar robberies across the Northeast.
Ryan, of Windsor, was arrested about two months later in early December after leading Massachusetts and Connecticut state police on a pursuit after a similar theft from a store in Auburn, Massachusetts. That incident also is not specifically cited in the grand jury’s indictment last month.
The indictment charges all eight members of the group with conspiracy to transport and possess stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.
James, Parrott, Barclett, Braithwaite and Blizzard also were charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each count.
Zach Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.