The last thing a man staying at a prominent downtown Milwaukee hotel during the heart of the pandemic must have expected was to fall prey to a woman orchestrating a string of thefts.
He was staying at the Pfister Hotel. On a Saturday night, he and some friends went drinking on Brady Street. They met a woman who promised to take them to an after-hours party. The party never materialized. The next morning, he tried to meet the woman again, but she sent a friend. He invited her up to his room. They watched some television and then she left to get some alcohol. She never came back.
As he looked around his room, he realized he was missing a Rolex watch, three gold chains, two diamond cut bracelets and his wallet with multiple credit, debit and identification cards. He told police he guessed the total loss at $35,000.
His story was part of a 20-count criminal complaint against Deloise Renee Lipsey, 35, who pleaded guilty Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to orchestrating a series of thefts from strangers and laundering the proceeds.
According to the complaint, Lipsey and female co-conspirators targeted and isolated victims — mostly men who where either drinking or badly intoxicated at a bar as it approached closing time. They offered to help with a ride home or to a hotel, and then stole money, cellphones, jewelry, and credit and debit cards. They pawned the jewelry, used the phones to get into Venmo, Cashapp and bank accounts, and purchased goods with the stolen cards.
Many of the victims were so drunk they could not recall specifics about the woman or where they went. One woke up in the back of a car, unsure who was driving, where they were going or why he was there.
The incidents stretched from December 2019 to December 2020.
Lipsey pleaded guilty to three felony charges of money laundering, attempted robbery with use of force and the organization of financial crimes. She could face up to 28½ years in prison.
The other 17 counts were dismissed but could be included in the judge's consideration at her sentencing.
The complaint describes at least one other female conspirator, who is not identified and does not appear to have been charged.
When she began the string of thefts, Lipsey had been recently put on probation for theft from a person in October 2019. She is now serving out the three-year sentence on the 2019 case.
The complaint included testimony from eight victims, some of whom may appear at Lipsey's sentencing in August. Police obtained evidence through Lipsey's iCloud account, including time-stamped photos, financial transactions and text messages between conspirators that tied her to each victim's story.
In the last incident, in December 2020, Lipsey grabbed a victim's phone while driving them home and attempted to Venmo money to her own account. The victim wrestled her phone back and jumped out of the moving vehicle. Lipsey was later identified through video surveillance at Jack's American Pub, where the woman had been drinking.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 22.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee woman guilty in string of thefts of drunken bar patrons