Edgartown Police nab shoplifters, find bags of merchandise

The haul included 13 winter hats, many with the price tags still on, and an $85 key chain. Social media was the key to solving the case.

Surveillance images captured at Nell, a women's clothing store on Main Street in Edgartown, led to the arrest of Tara Sutanovac, in pink, and Marjiana Zivkovic, in the foreground, on shoplifting charges. — Edgartown Police

Edgartown Police arrested two Serbian women they said shoplifted from stores in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. A search of the women’s rented room turned up numerous retail items and four large garbage bags filled with clothing and goods taken from Island shops, more than 40 items in total, police said, including 13 winter hats.

Arrested on Sept. 22, Tara Sutanovac, 21, and Marjiana Zivkovic, 20, both of whom were living in a rented room at 20 Pequot Avenue in Oak Bluffs, were arraigned on Friday, Sept. 29, on multiple counts of shoplifting by asportation and one count each of larceny over $250. The cases were continued to pretrial conference.

The investigation began when Edgartown Police responded to a report of shoplifting at Nell, a woman’s boutique, on Main Street. Shop owner Ann Soper provided police with a description of the suspects, given in the police report “as two Eastern European females (later identified as Tara Sutanovac and Marjiana Zivkovic), one thick build and one medium.”

Ms. Soper was able to provide police with photos and video footage of the incident that showed Marjiana Zivkovic placing items into her bag and then quickly exiting the store, according to the report.

The missing items included “two Kate Spade wallets valued at $176 each, one beige clutch valued at $239, and one fur key chain valued at $85,” police said.

The store owner placed the photos and video from the security footage on Islanders Talk, a Facebook site popular with Islanders, and asked for help identifying the two women. Three days later, the owner received a tip online that led police to the two women.

The women told police, during an interview that they agreed to, that they were aware of the Facebook post, and admitted to taking items from Nell, according to the police report. “Officers asked what other store besides Nell they had visited,” Officer Zachary Townes said in his report. “Both girls stated that they did not steal from any other stores.”

The women handed over the items from Nell.

“Detective [Jonathan] Searle then asked them about the shoplifting incident that had occurred on the same day as the Nell incident at Vineyard Vines in Oak Bluffs. The girls then admitted to taking clothes from Vineyard Vines in Oak Bluffs as well as in Edgartown. Sutanovac and Zivkovic were having a hard time recalling exactly what they had taken and where they had taken it from.”

The women consented to a search of their rented room. Together, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown police searched the room.

“Both females retrieved multiple items from dresser drawers, closets, and random bags. Officers asked where a pair of shorts that were reported stolen in incident #2016044259 were. Sutanovac then climbed to a loft area that was just outside the room and pulled down four trash bags full of stolen merchandise.”

Police found items taken from Vineyard Vines in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, and a purse “that the girls stated they took from Vineyard Haven, but were not sure where.”

Police also found three winter jackets, along with other merchandise, taken from the Black Dog, which Ms. Zivkovic said she took. There were also 13 winter hats, most of which still had the price tags on, which as a whole were worth more than $700, according to a report filed by the Oak Bluffs police, and four lip balm containers worth $15 taken from Reliable Market.

In separate reports, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown Police said the items were returned to the shop owners.

Officer Townes said the women worked on the Island for the summer and were preparing to return to their native Serbia.

Reached by cell phone Tuesday evening, Ms. Sutanovac declined to comment and questioned what interest The Times would have in the incident.

Throw the book at them

But for Ann Soper, the women might have escaped attention. Ms. Soper said she was working in her store the day the women came in. They were carrying large shopping bags from Marshall’s, which she found curious as there is no cachet attached to the mainland retailer, but she put that down to the fact that they appeared to be from Eastern Europe.

She had just rearranged some goods. Within five minutes of their departure she noticed that Kate Spade wallets were missing. A co-worker confirmed they were not sold. She knew exactly who had stolen them, she said, and ran out of the store, but the women were gone.

“I knew that they weren’t tourists,” she said. “I knew that somebody on this Island had to know who these girls were.”

She put the video surveillance clip on Islanders Talk: “And because of that we got to find out who they were.” She called Officer Townes with the information and urged him to act quickly.

She said the fact that the stolen items still had price tags revealed the thefts were not for personal use. “Their intention was to take the merchandise back to Serbia and sell it,” she said, “because what they stole from me was high-end, name-brand items, Kate Spade wallets and things like that.”

Ms. Soper said she has been in the retail business for more than 37 years. “This is my 23rd summer of retail in Edgartown,” she said. “Shoplifting on the Island is a problem — it’s always been a problem.”

Ms. Soper said she told Officer Townes she wanted to prosecute the two women to the fullest extent of the law, but was not confident the punishment would be severe, or that the two women would even remain in the country long enough to make their next court date. “And they’re guilty. I have them on my cameras taking the merchandise and putting it in their bags and walking out of the store with big smiles on their faces — premeditated, no remorse [see video at mvtimes.com].”

Ms. Soper said businesspeople need to be aware of the problem, and alert police when they suspect shoplifting has occurred. She said there is no one profile for shoplifters. “It’s not just the kids,” she said.

Two years ago, it was a woman in her 50s. “The police called me down to the station when they finally got her,” she said. “She would take the merchandise and put it in her Range Rover, and then go back and continue shopping.”

Recalling an incident last summer, she said she attended the Taste of the Vineyard event in Edgartown with some of her employees, and found herself standing next to a young woman wearing a dress that Ms. Soper recognized.

“One of the girls says, ‘Did you get that dress at Nell?’ She goes, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Well, did you buy it?’ She said, ‘No, I just didn’t have the money.’ Right in front of them. She admits she stole the dress — I didn’t even know.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the boyfriend of the woman who stole the dress was a police officer. The police officer was the boyfriend of a woman standing next to the woman who admitted to stealing the dress.