MIDTOWN SOUTH — A Hispanic NYPD officer taking advantage of post-Thanksgiving sales at Macy’s last year was wrongfully arrested for shoplifting after the store’s security lied that she confessed to the crime, a new lawsuit charges.
Jenny Mendez, 29, is suing the department store for $40 million, claiming its workers racially profiled her — and the bogus arrest got her bounced from the police department after less than a year on the job.
Mendez, who lives in the Bronx, was acquitted of the shoplifting charges in September. During the two-day bench trial, a store detective took the stand and admitted her supervisors told her to fudge paperwork.
The store detective, whom the lawsuit only names as Trouche, testified that she checked "yes" in a section of her report in which it asks if Mendez admitted the theft.
Trouche said she lied about the confession because it was “something our boss told us” to do, according to court records.
“Isn’t it a lie to put yes when the answer is no?” Mendez's lawyer, Philip Karasyk, asked Trouche while she was on the stand.
“Your boss is telling you to lie on this report?” he added.
“I guess so, yes,” Trouche responded.
At the time, the judge hearing the case admonished the alleged policy, telling Trouche, "Tell your boss that's a bad practice."
"It was one wrong on top of another that happened to Jenny Mendez," Karasyk told DNAinfo New York. "First she was wrongly accused and then she lost the job she loved, and that wrong should be made right."
On Black Friday last year, Mendez, then a probationary officer with the NYPD, went shopping with her mother, Cruz Mendez, at the 34th Street department store.
The lawsuit describes a chaotic scene of bargain hunters pulling clothes off the rack and lining up at cash registers and dressing rooms to take advantage of the day’s deals.
When Jenny and her mother arrived, they picked up empty shopping bags from a sales clerk because they intended to try on many items throughout the store, the suit says. They moved from floor to floor until the two split up to do their own browsing.
As Jenny found items she wanted to try on, she dropped them into the bags.
Jenny says in her lawsuit she made three trips to the dressing room. Each time she discarded unwanted items and kept the clothes she wanted in a bag that she eventually took to a cash register where her mom was.
When Jenny reached the check-out area, Cruz Mendez already had two bags of purchased clothes and more items to ring up, the suit says. To make room at the register’s counter, Jenny placed the two bags of purchased clothes and her own bag of unpaid items on the floor.
As the cashier rang up more of Cruz’s clothes, Jenny noticed that one of the bags on the floor was missing.
The sales clerk told the mom and daughter to report the loss to security at its 1½-floor office, the suit says. Before they went, security personnel called Jenny’s cell phone, telling her that guards had found her missing bag on another alleged shoplifter and instructed her to retrieve it at their office.
When Jenny and Cruz arrived with their other bags — including one with unpaid items — they were detained, the suit says. Jenny was accused of stealing and the police were called.
The lawsuit says she never tried to conceal her unpaid items and could not have been stealing since the security office is on a floor with no exit.
“It is apparent that the sole reason for stopping [Jenny] was due to her Hispanic heritage and that the subsequent arrest, detainment and prosecution was racially motivated,” the lawsuit says.
Macy’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In recent months, the store has been slapped with lawsuits alleging racial profiling by other shoppers, including "Treme" actor Robert Brown.
Last month, two black shoppers also accused retail store Barneys New York of profiling after they were wrongfully arrested for alleged shoplifting.
Jenny Mendez graduated from the police academy in December 2011 and was an officer for less than a year when Macy's accused her of theft.