Kayla Phillips, 21, was stopped by police in February at the 59th St.
and Lexington Ave. subway station after purchasing a Céline handbag from
Barneys at 61st St. and Madison Ave.
Four plainclothes cops accused a black woman of credit card fraud after
the Brooklyn mom bought a $2,500 designer bag from Barneys — stoking a
fresh round of outrage against the high-end store.
Kayla Phillips, 21, a nursing student from Canarsie, told the Daily
News she had long coveted the orange suede Céline bag. Armed with a cash
infusion from a tax return, she took her Bank of America debit card and
headed to the Madison Ave. flagship store on Feb. 28.
Phillips made the purchase without incident but says she was surrounded
by cops just three blocks away, at the Lexington Ave. and 59th St.
“There were three men and a woman,” she recalled. “Two of them attacked
me and pushed me against a wall, and the other two appeared in front of
me, blocking the turnstile.”
The cops started peppering her with questions and demanding to see her ID.
“They were very rough,” said Phillips, who has filed a $5 million
notice of claim with the city of her intention to sue the NYPD. “They
kept asking me what I bought and saying, ‘Show us your card.’ I didn’t
know what was happening.”
Phillips’ attorney, Kareem Vessup, says an additional civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys is pending.
The 5 p.m. confrontation was eerily similar to a clash between cops and
19-year-old Trayon Christian, who filed a discrimination suit this week
accusing Barneys and the NYPD of racially profiling him. Christian, who
is black, alleged he was followed into the street by undercover cops
and accused of fraud after he used his debit card to buy a $349
Ferragamo belt at Barneys on April 29.
The young Queens man was cuffed and taken to the 19th Precinct
stationhouse, but released with no charges, his discrimination suit
Phillips, a nursing student from Canarsie, Brooklyn, told the Daily News she had long coveted the orange suede Céline bag.
Both Christian and Phillips were amazed at how quickly they were
swarmed by police. A Barneys exec told Phillips’ mother, Wendy Elie,
that store employees didn’t call police on her.
Elie told The News a security guard told her the store has law
enforcement on patrol inside the store — part of an NYPD fraud task
force. A source confirmed that undercover cops are periodically inside
the store because of repeated fraud complaints.
Police said there were 53 grand larceny complaints for credit card
fraud at the Madison Ave. store and more than 47 arrests. A racial
breakdown of the suspects wasn’t immediately available.
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NYPD officials wouldn’t say whether there was a dedicated task force working at Barneys or other luxury retailers.
Barneys posted a reponse on Facebook.
Elie lashed out at Barneys, calling the store hypocritical for striking
a business deal with Jay Z, the superstar black hip-hop artist, while
targeting black shoppers.
“It’s not fair . . . the two individuals who have had these experiences
listen to Jay Z and Beyoncé, who wear designer clothes. These kids also
like nice things, and they were treated awfully,” Elie said.
Jay Z — in Oslo, Norway, on his Magna Carta tour — worked with major
designers like Balenciaga to produce an exclusive limited edition line
of clothes and jewelry for Barneys that will go on sale Nov. 20. The
deluxe goods range from a Barneys cotton T-shirt for $70 to a Shawn
Carter by Hublot watch with black alligator straps that will retail for
an eye-popping $33,900.
A portion of Jay Z’s profits will go to a foundation he runs to give
financial aid to students facing economic hardships — people like
Phillips and Christian, who are both working their way through college.
Calls and emails to Jay Z’s publicist were not returned Wednesday.
A Barneys spokesman said in a statement that the upscale store had carefully reviewed Christian’s incident.
Christian, 19, filed a discrimination suit this week accusing Barneys
and the NYPD of racially profiling him. Christian said he was followed
by undercover cops and accused of fraud after buying a $349 Ferragamo
belt at Barneys on April 29.
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“It is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the
pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale . . . . We
are very sorry that any customer of our store would have this
experience,” the statement read.
That didn’t stop customers from panning the posh store on social media and vowing never to shop there again.
Patricia Gatling, who heads the city’s Human Rights Commission, said the allegations were outrageous for 2013.
“If true . . . (it) smacks of the same racism of the 1940s when my dad,
a U.S. Army major who served in three wars as a pilot, tried to buy a
car and was arrested because a black man should not have $5,000 in
cash,” she said. “Had Mr. Christian come to the Commission on Human
Rights, we would have vigorously prosecuted this case.”
The Barneys receipt for a Céline handbag purchased by Phillips. She used her Bank of America debit card for the luxury item.
Like Christian, Phillips used an ATM card to make her purchase.
Including tax, the purse cost Phillips $2,504, according to a receipt
obtained by The News.
“I had been looking for that purse in that color for a long time, and
it was always out of stock,” said the young mom, who is pregnant with
her second child.
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Phillips was then working at Home Depot and had recently opened a bank
account with Bank of America. She was using a temporary ATM card that
didn’t have her name.
Her official ATM card had just arrived in the mail — and luckily she
had it with her when the plainclothes cops nabbed her. The female
detective, who was white, said Phillips, demanded to know where she
lived and what she was doing in Manhattan.
Marcus Santos/New York Daily News
A Barneys spokesman said in a
statement that the upscale store had looked into Christian's incident,
and that it was 'clear' that no Barneys employees were involved in any
actions but the sale.
“They kept asking how I could afford this expensive bag and why had I
paid for it with a card with no name on it,” said Phillips.
They also questioned her about the Chanel bag she was carrying, she
said. She showed them a letter from Bank of America, saying she hadn’t
activated her official card yet.
The detective took her card and started bending it, Phillips said.
“If you were a victim of identity theft, if someone was trying to use
your hard-earned money, wouldn’t you want us to investigate?” she
allegedly told Phillips, after the startled shopper asked why they
Phillips, whose brother is an NYPD officer, knew enough to ask the detectives for their names and badges, she said.
With Erin Durkin