By Sarina Trangle
A Ridgewood couple has been charged in a spate of pickpocketing targeting more than a dozen women with strollers across the borough, the Queens district attorney said this week.
The pair’s attorney contends, however, police and prosecutors may have been the ones trolling — for suspects.
DA Richard Brown said Luis Chango, 45, and his wife, Rosa Jerez, 37, both of Ridgewood, were arraigned Monday on complaints charging them with stealing from more than a dozen mothers at Carters’ Children Store, V.I.M., Mandee, The Gap, Old Navy and Seafood Grocery Store just across the Brooklyn border between August and November.
Prosecutors said the two generally worked as a pair, with Jerez allegedly engaging mothers in conversations or shielding them from their babies as her husband grabbed cell phones and wallets from their strollers.
Brown singled out a Sept. 27 incident, where prosecutors maintain the two exploited a newborn in the Ridgewood Mandee.
“It is alleged that the male defendant simply bent over a stroller and pulled a new iPhone out of the hands of the baby playing with it, causing the child to burst out crying,” he said in a statement.
Chango is the lone defendant in eight additional complaints, the DA said. These allege he swiped a pocketbook, three cell phones and two wallets, including one with $2,000 in cash, from customers at Carter’s Children Store, Xios, Payless Shoe Store and V.I.M.
The couple’s attorney, Roger Asmar, said his clients denied the charges and were coerced into confessing.
He said the two were detained for more than 48 hours, noting that authorities are legally obligated to attempt to release suspects within 24 hours.
“They showed him pictures. He was refusing to sign anything. He said, “I don’t know. It’s not me,’” Asmar said. “Then after many hours of pressuring him and questioning him, what do you think is going to happen?”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brown spokesman Kevin Ryan said there was a delay in arraigning the defendants because the office was processing 14 arrests and finalizing investigations at the time. He refuted the accusations of coercion, saying the statements were made within hours of arrest.
“Jerez requested a lawyer and was not questioned. Chango was fully Mirandized per the interviewing officer and had a Spanish-speaking officer present to assist him,” Ryan wrote in an e-mail.
The attorney contended prosecutors keep discussing video surveillance evidence, but he has not seen any of it.
“I haven’t seen any of these videos, including the one with a 6-month old,” he said. “I find that ridiculous — a 6-month-old baby with an iPhone 6?”
The DA said the couple is scheduled to appear in court next Dec. 4.
If convicted, Chango faces up to 38 years in prison and Jerez faces up to 23 years behind bars, prosecutors said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4546.