MAGNIFICENT MILE — The $200,000 jewelry and cash robbery on North Michigan Avenue was all a hoax, Chicago police said Thursday night.
At the end of a day when Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to defend the city's prized shopping stretch as safe, Chicago Police put out a statement saying the brazen rip-off of a 68-year-old suburban woman, allegedly at the hands of a group of young thugs, never happened.
"Detectives confronted the victim with inconsistencies between her account of the incident and recovered video and learned that the story was not true," Chicago Police spokesman Adam Collins said.
It's too soon to say whether the woman will pay a price for the tall tale and get charged, police said.
"Area detectives will determine if any charges are prudent and would serve a police purpose, though it's too early to say at this point," police said.
The woman initially claimed she got robbed outside the Saks Fifth Avenue in the 700 block of North Michigan just after noon on Wednesday, police said.
The Tribune reported police were told a group of young men approached the woman, demanded her jewelry and money and took off. The haul was pegged at $200,000, including a $100,000 diamond brooch.
She even laid out the story for ABC7 News, saying: "It was a group of young people, young men, and they surrounded me. One just took my purse, didn't say anything, just took my purse. The other person spoke and said 'Either you take off your jewelry or I will.' "
There were eight to 10 teens in on it, she claimed. She told ABC7 she didn't shout because she was afraid.
"I really didn't want to do this interview, I want to be honest with you. But I was violated, and I don't want this to happen to anybody else."
But surveillance video apparently told a different tale.
With fears of flash mobs and wildings already circulating, the story of a midday robbery on the Magnificent Mile stoked concern on Thursday.
The mayor, in the midst of triumphantly touting megabucks Navy Pier and McCormick Place overhauls on the two-year anniversary of the start of his administration, was forced to defend Michigan Avenue before the story unraveled.
"There are a lot of police present on Michigan Avenue, and, yes, people feel safe because I talk to people constantly who note how safe they are," Emanuel said earlier Thursday.
On Thursday morning, people walking where the robbery supposedly happened said they were shocked.
Happy Pross, who lives a couple of blocks away from the robbery site, said she was amazed to hear the crime occurred at "high noon."
Walking her dog Thursday, she said she has never felt unsafe in the 10 years she has lived Downtown.
"I walk my dog at all hours, sometimes at two o'clock in the morning," Pross said. "I've never experienced anything like that."
Pross said she attends community meetings and thinks the police are doing a great job.
"The police are wonderful," she said. "They're doing what they can, but it's hard to stop somebody who's hell-bent on destruction."
News of the supposed robbery was just as surprising for Joe Hooper, 17, and Brandon Henley, 18, who were hanging out in front of Water Tower Place Thursday.
"In broad daylight?" Henley asked. "That's crazy."
Hooper said he thought all the "flash mobs" and "chain-snatching" stories that made the news gave young men like him a bad name.
"It's disappointing," Hooper said.
Contributing: Ted Cox