Last week, a sharp-eyed Vineyard Haven store manager helped police nab a woman responsible for the theft of an expensive cashmere sweater from a Menemsha clothing shop. In the process, police recovered a necklace and an embroidered shirt stolen from the manager’s own workplace.
On Thursday, August 30, police arrested Joelle F. Hyland-O’Reilly, a well-heeled shoplifter from Bedford Hills, New York, when she and her family arrived in Vineyard Haven to board the 9:30 pm ferry to Woods Hole.
On Martha’s Vineyard, the retail community looks out for one another, one merchant said, shoplifting is the bane of the summer, and word gets around.
Last Thursday, when a family walked into the Green Room to buy a paddle board, Belinda Ritchie thought she recognized the distinctive sweater the woman customer was wearing. It was identical to a charcoal grey cashmere sweater, with the image of a fox embroidered with silver thread on the back, she knew was stolen from a friend’s shop in Menemsha.
While her husband purchased the paddle board, Ms. Hyland-O’Reilly took items, including an embroidered shirt, into the dressing room. The shirt was later found to be missing, according to Tisbury police Officer Jeff Day’s report. Store employees helped the family load the paddle board on top of their Mercedes Benz SUV.
Ms. Ritchie called her friend Carla Felter, manager of Pandora’s Box in Menemsha. Ms. Felter went straight to the Tisbury Police station.
About 8 pm, Officer Day called Chilmark police to say there was a lead in the stolen sweater case. Police also learned from store employees that the family planned to leave on the 9:30 pm ferry that evening.
Chief Cioffi, along with Chilmark Officer Elizabeth Elwell and Tisbury Officer Scott Ogden, went to the ferry terminal to wait. When the family arrived they were asked to park their car in an unoccupied lane.
Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland, still wearing the sweater, first told Chief Cioffi she had bought the sweater online. She then said she bought it in Woodstock, New York.
“At this point, I advised Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland of her Miranda warnings and told her that I didn’t believe her story about where she got the sweater,” Chief Cioffi wrote in his report.
Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland admitted to stealing the sweater and agreed to pay restitution. “She stated that she really liked the sweater and was concerned that her husband would be upset if she kept spending money,” Mr. Cioffi wrote in his report.
The embroidered shirt with a Green Room price tag of $96 was found in the SUV’s front passenger compartment.
“After questioning,” Officer Day wrote in his report, “Mrs. O’Reilly admitted to stealing the shirt. She stated that she had asked the Green Room manager to sell the paddle board for 50 percent off. When she refused, she felt that taking the shirt was payback for them not giving her the discount for the paddle board.”
Chief Cioffi arrested Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland for larceny of goods valued at more than $250 and wanton destruction of property, based on damage to the cashmere sweater caused when she removed the electronic anti-theft tag. She was taken to the Dukes County Jail that night and released just after midnight on $300 bail.
Chief Cioffi was in court when Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland was arraigned Friday morning, August 31. He said he was later surprised to learn that, at the request of Edgartown lawyer Martin Tomassian and with the agreement of assistant district attorney Tucker Greene, before the morning roll ended, Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland’s earlier arraignment, witnessed by Chief Cioffi, was expunged from the court record. Chief Cioffi learned that the arraignment had been stricken from the record so that it could be rescheduled to September 24.
Later on Friday, Tisbury Detective Mark Santon called Mr. Tomassian to say that he had learned of a $36 necklace missing from the Green Room. “I advised attorney Tomassian that if an admission was made by the defendant that she took the necklace and would produce it to the police, I would not seek an additional charge of shoplifting,” Detective Santon wrote in a report. Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland admitted to the theft and said she would return the necklace when she returns to the Island for a pretrial conference.
Carla Felter, manager of Pandora’s Box for more than six years, said she first noticed the sweater missing after Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland had left the store. She said theft is always upsetting, and it affects the livelihood of small business owners across the Island.
“I am just very grateful for the police. They made it super comfortable and easy and were willing to help, so it was really nice,” Ms. Felter said. And, she added, “I couldn’t have done it without [Ms. Ritchie]; she saved the day.”
Green Room manager Belinda Ritchie described the shoplifting incident as very unfortunate. She said Chilmark and Tisbury police “were great, definitely helpful and very supportive.”
On the strength of her biography, Ms. O’Reilly-Hyland would seem to be an unlikely shoplifter. She is co-founder and managing partner of Ounavarra Capital LLC, “an independent investment boutique focused on providing clients with superior service,” according to the company website. She is also the founder and owner of Ounavarra Capital Inc, a minority/woman owned consulting and advisory firm.
In 1994, she founded Minerva Capital Management Ltd., a fund trading in global equities and convertible and high yield opportunities after trading and then managing a portfolio for Pier Funds for two years, beginning in 1992, according to a company biography. She is also on the board of Educate Girls Globally, a not-for-profit organization focused on improving education for girls in the developing world.