Robbery gang victim, 93: 'I fought every inch'

Surveillance photo shows one of the two men sought in the targeting of women in Center City in organized robbery assaults.
Surveillance photo shows one of the two men sought in the targeting of women in Center City in organized robbery assaults.
Posted: August 24, 2010

Her arm was blue, her shoulder sore and her pinkie finger broken, but her spirits weren't, despite being robbed of a wallet holding what the petite 93-year-old woman described as the best picture of her late husband.

"I wanted that wallet," she told the Daily News last night. "It had the only decent picture of my husband. It was a special [wallet]. A good one that he had given me."

She was the latest victim in a string of four robberies, all on Mondays, since July 19, when the assailants attempted to rob a mom pushing her 3-month infant in a stroller into her Center City high-rise condominium building.

A group of up to four men, all black and in their 30s, 40s or 50s, sporting business casual attire, stroll through busy Center City streets - preying on women who are alone, elderly or with their children, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

"Please be very conscious. These guys are very organized," Vanore said. "They're very, very calculated."

For each robbery there are at least two men, but police believe they are all a part of the same operation.

On Aug. 16, two men followed the 93-year-old woman into her high-rise building on Locust Street near 15th. One man distracted the building security guard while the other entered the elevator with her at 10:08 a.m.

The Monday muggers got away with a grand total of $6, police said.

The woman said last night after a meeting of concerned residents that she was not going to give up her purse or wallet without a fight.

"I fought every inch of the way," she said.

The woman's husband died five years ago from Parkinson's disease. "I wonder what they did with his picture," she said.

The bald man shown in most of the surveillance footage boarded the elevator with her. When she tried to leave at the 25th floor he flung his briefcase into the doorway, blocking her exit.

He told her to push for the 34th floor, she said. As the elevator doors closed he pushed her into a corner and fumbled into her purse for her wallet. He then threw the fragile woman out of the elevator at the 34th floor.

She said she could think of nothing but "self protection," adding that she was grateful he didn't make away with the $240 she had stashed in her purse or the shiny wedding ring on her finger.

Residents at the upscale building were outraged that they didn't find out about the incident until it was aired on the news.

They expressed their grievances last night with building manager Will Aldridge during a tenant- organized meeting.

"You spend so much money renovating these apartments when you should be protecting your tenants," said a 27-year-old resident who declined to give her name.

She added that residents got a letter about the incident and changes to building security including installation of some new surveillance cameras and a key fob system.

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