Sophisticated bands of transvestites, seeking the best of high fashion to wear and to sell, are robbing upscale boutiques from Manhattan to Florida.
The roving robbers have driven cars through shop windows, tied up boutique owners or swooped into stores in packs, carrying off arm-loads of clothing by such designers as Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Yves St. Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier, according to law enforcement officials.
On Jan. 8, two men wearing designer menswear and a transsexual fashionably dressed in women's clothes entered the Toby Lerner boutique in Philadelphia's Center City near closing time. The trio pretended to be shoppers, then threatened to spray Mace in the face of owner Toby Lerner and two other workers. At gunpoint, the robbers covered the victims' mouths with tape, tied them up and took them to the back of the store, police confirmed yesterday.
The trio -- believed responsible for at least four other robberies alongthe East Coast -- then went on a shopping spree, careful to take only the most exquisite and priciest clothes. It amounted to about $25,000 in merchandise, police said.
"They took only the best," said Robert Young, a Philadelphia police spokesman.
Police said suspects in the Philadelphia case were arrested Jan. 29 in the upscale Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Md. They were trapped in a building while attempting to rob a recently opened Gianni Versace boutique, police said.
The suspects in the Philadelphia case were identified as Bryan Keith Chandler, 24, of Santa Monica, Calif.; Christopher Darnell Hall, 31, of Orlando, Fla., and Dana Dubose, 19, of Oceanside, Calif., police said.
Detective Lauren Acquaviva of the Montgomery County Police Department said the suspects were being held without bond at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, Md. The charges are armed robbery, false imprisonment and assault and battery.