Last summer, Samya Moftah walked into Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square in New York City to exchange a few items. The process should have taken less than a half hour. Instead, she says, Moftah found herself locked in a jail cell in the basement of the store.
Moftah was accused of stealing the items she planned to return. In a lawsuit filed by Moftah and viewed by The Guardian, the 53-year-old asked the security guards to look at her receipt to clear up the misunderstanding. She claims that the guards never tried to rectify the situation but chided her for being Muslim and stealing during Ramadan.
In her lawsuit, Moftah claims that she was approached by a manager and told that she needed to sign some documents and pay a $100 fine. Moftah refused and was threatened with handcuffs. The manager returned and told her she could leave as soon as she paid the new amount, $500. Moftah again refused and claims that her credit card was removed from her wallet and she was charged the full amount. Moftah was then handed over to police, who arrested her and charged her with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree.
It would take months for Moftah to have the charges cleared from her record.
On Monday a New York State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan ruled in favor of a class action lawsuit finding that the store abused two laws governing how stores can treat customers who are found to be in possession of stolen items. Suspects “can be reasonably detained” and can be charged up to five times the amount of the item taken, The Guardian reports, but Judge Manuel Mendez ruled that "Macy’s has combined the power it was given under the statutes by using this power as a double-edged sword instead of a shield." He found that the actions by Macy's violated due process.
Macy’s attorneys from Palmer, Reifler and Associates did not reply to The Guardian's request for comment. This is the latest lawsuit brought against Macy's, which was also sued in 2014 after more than a dozen complaints of profiling and false detentions of minority customers at its Herald Square store, The Guardian reports.
"We are claiming […] that this is all by design. To accuse someone, hold them, charge them money and then transfer them to the criminal-justice system," Moftah's attorney, Faruk Usar of Usar Law Group, told The Guardian. "It’s like the police pulling you over, giving you a ticket and demanding money on the spot. If not worse."
Read more at The Guardian.