The retailer Macy’s is facing allegations in a New York City lawsuit that it detains minority shoppers it believes tried to shoplift and then extorts them for bogus fees without having to prove them guilty.
The lawsuit filed last month on behalf of a 29-year-old Bronx woman claims the giant retailer extracts the payments under a “shopkeeper’s privilege” rule that is part of New York’s General Business Law, DNAInfo.com reported Thursday.
“What the lawsuit aims to do, is finally put an end to this practice, and bring justice to past victims,” plaintiff attorney Frank Usar told the news outlet in an email. The lawsuit claims there are thousands of shoppers who were targeted in the alleged scheme.
Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orellana alleges in the lawsuit that she was shopping in Macy’s flagship Herald Square store last year when she was accused of shoplifting shirts. A security guard took her to a holding cell where she was held for three hours. She was forced to sign legal papers admitting her guilty and pay a $100 fine before being turned over to police who charged her with shoplifting. Those charges were eventually dismissed, DNA reported.
Macy’s agreed to revamp policies related to detaining suspected shoplifters last year after an investigation by the state attorney general’s office.
The investigation was sparked by a number of complaints, including one from “Treme” actor Robert Brown who claimed Macy’s security falsely accused him of shoplifting a watch.
A Macy’s spokesman told TIME that Orellana’s lawsuit is without merit.
“Our company takes great pride on the proactive steps we have taken in recent years as an industry leader in shopping equality,” the spokesman, Jim Sluzewski, told the magazine.