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Serial shoplifter arrested for jewel heists at half a dozen shops across Queens: DA

A Staten Island man was taken into custody at a Queens Boulevard motel and charged with stealing more than $170,000 worth of jewelry from a half dozen shops across Queens, Courtesy of DA’s office

May 13, 2024 By Bill Parry

A Staten Island man is accused of being a serial shoplifter who targeted several stores across Queens and stole jewelry for more than $170,000 during a three-month period beginning last December and a previous heist in 2021.

Aaron Smalls, 39, of Wandell Avenue on Staten Island, was arraigned last Thursday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny and other crimes for allegedly stealing expensive pieces of jewelry from six shops between December 2023 and February 2024, stealing merchandise valued at more than $50,000. DNA evidence tied Smalls to another theft of gold chains worth $120,000 in 2021.

He was also arraigned on a separate complaint charging him with robbery, grand larceny and assault for allegedly punching a man and stealing his bank card on August 3, 2021, in Corona.

“The defendant is accused of preying upon local jewelry stores by committing brazen thefts that go back to 2021,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “My office is committed to addressing the issue of serial shoplifters who disproportionately contribute to retail thefts across the borough.”

According to the charges, Smalls’ modus operandi was to ask a jewelry store clerk to see an expensive piece held in a security case. Immediately upon being handed the merchandise, he would run out of the store, stolen property in hand.

Smalls is accused of using this tactic to steal two gold chains worth approximately $4,369 from HR Gold and Diamond Inc. on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights on the afternoon of Dec. 14, 2023.

A week later, Smalls stole a gold chain worth approximately $2,400 from Queens Pawn & Jewelry on Roosevelt Avenue in Elmhurst. During the evening of Dec. 28, 2023, he tricked a store employee at Gold Tower USA Inc. on Junction Boulevard in Corona in order to steal a gold chain with a large pendant bearing the image of Jesus, worth approximately $20,000.

On New Year’s Day 2024, Smalls targeted a Zales on Steinway Street in Astoria, taking off with a gold chain and a bracelet, together worth approximately $17,000. A month later, Smalls was in South Queens, where he hit Prime Jewelers on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven on Feb. 6, stealing two gold chains worth approximately $9,000.

Smalls was apprehended on May 8 at the Woodside Motel on Queens Boulevard by members of the Queens Warrant Squad and investigators linked him to a major score on Sept. 26, 2021 when he made off with twenty-five gold chains worth approximately $120,000 from Simon and Son Jewelers on 63rd Drive in Rego Park. Smalls was linked to that heist after DNA was recovered from a sweat-stained hat he left behind upon fleeing the store.

“Ensuring the safety of our store owners, their employees, and customers is essential to a vibrant economy,” Katz said. “We can never lose sight of the fact that communities thrive when local businesses thrive.”

If convicted, Smalls could face up to 15 years in prison. Queens Criminal Court Judge Diego Friere ordered him to return to court on May 13.

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