Cross dresser’s taste for shoplifting proves costly for Riverbend boutique

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An image from a surveillance video shows a shoplifting in progress at Lola Boutique in the Riverbend.

A Riverbend boutique has lost thousands of dollars in costly designer clothes after being hit twice in a month by shoplifters who appear to be transvestites, the owners say.

About a month ago, a thin man flamboyantly dressed as a woman entered Lola Boutique on a Friday afternoon, and something about the way he was browsing raised the concern of store owner Tiffany Treadaway Mouton. She asked if he needed any help, she said, and he left without buying anything.

The next day, when the store was being tended by an employee in the mid-afternoon, a cross-dresser entered the store, took six or seven items of designer denim worth about $1,200 and dashed out, Mouton said. When she showed up and viewed the store’s surveillance video, it appeared to be the same person who had been checking the place out the day before.

“I think he specifically knew those jeans were there,” Mouton said.

This past Saturday, the store was struck again, when a cross-dressing shopper again snatched several items off the sale rack by the door — specifically placed there to minimize losses in the event of more shoplifting. Store employees are still trying to determine the exact cost of what was stolen in that incident, but Mouton says it appears to be $600 or $700 in merchandise.

The surveillance video from Saturday shows the shoplifter lingering outside the boutique’s glass door, then dashing in, lifting an armload of clothing and heading right back out in about eight seconds’ time.
Mouton says it is possible but not “100 percent certain” that the shoplifting was done by the same person both times.

“This time, I don’t know if he had any goal in mind for what he was going to take,” Mouton said. “But they got a pretty hefty handful of stuff.”

Remarkably, this is not the first time Uptown New Orleans has had a problem with cross-dressing transvestites. In 2006, Lower Magazine Street boutiques experienced a widely-reported crime wave of sorts perpetrated by cross-dressing fashionistas.

Unfortunately, it is also not Lola’s first experience with a determined thief, even though the store has been open only a year. In January and February, Lola was broken into twice among a rash of burglaries targeting the cash drawers of about a dozen Riverbend businesses. Michael J. Dardar, found living under a house on South Carrollton surrounded by stolen items, was arrested in connection with that spree and told police that he turned to burglary after he lost his job researching property titles when the real-estate market crashed. He pleaded guilty to several counts of burglary in August, court records show.

A Lola Boutique employee checks merchandise in early March after the store was part of a Riverbend business burglary spree. (Sabree Hill, UptownMessenger.com)

The experience with Dardar led Lola to first install motion-detection alarms and the camera system that captured the latest thief’s image, and then to put bars on the windows after Dardar came in through one of them. Now, Mouton said she is deciding whether to install anti-shoplifting devices at the door as well.

Between the thefts and the mounting security costs, the experience has been frustrating, Mouton said.

“It stinks,” Mouton said. “It’s been all year for us.”

Contact Robert Morris at rmorris@NolaMessenger.com, or post your comment below.

14 thoughts on “Cross dresser’s taste for shoplifting proves costly for Riverbend boutique

  1. Robert,

    Thank you for helping us to spread awareness of these incidents. Hopefully, spreading the word will help to find the perpetrators.

    Thanks again,

    Tiffany Treadaway Mouton, owner
    Lola Boutique of NO

  2. I’m not sure why emphasizing that the shoplifter is a cross-dresser is necessary. Unless you are trying to imply that being a cross-dresser has something to do with being a criminal? Or are you trying to make the public aware of what this person looks like? I generally satisfied with the quality of journalism on this website; however I’m very disturbed by the way you have approached covering this story.

    I am also bothered by this article’s use of the word transvestite. It is my understanding that the majority of the LGBT community now considers the term transvestite outdated and offensive. I hope that Uptown Messenger in the future will be more sensitive to the language it uses.

    • Julia, thanks first of all for a thoughtful comment.

      To your first point, the experience of shoplifting is unfortunately a fairly common one in our community. The relatively unusual attire of this suspect (or suspects) makes this case particularly unusual, and unusual occurrences are a generally accepted basis for news reporting. I tried to avoid excessive over-use of the issue in the article, mentioning it only where the store owner was in the act of identifying the thief. I’ve just reviewed the piece again in light of your comment and still feel that the emphasis on the cross-dressing was appropriate, but I’ll certainly accept your admonition to be sensitive to my word choice.

      I am intrigued by your statement about the word “transvestite.” You’ll note that the Associated Press article about the 2006 cases uses the word prominently, and the most commonly used journalistic standards are set by the Associated Press (“AP Style”). (A New Orleans City Business article from the same time also uses the word in the headline.) On the other hand, I recognize that standards change over time and vary by community, and I actually don’t even have a current copy of this year’s style book to see if the word has “officially” fallen into disfavor. But even without that judgment, I generally tend toward letting groups of all kinds self-identify how they want, so I could probably be convinced to abandon the use of the word on this site in the unusual event that it’s needed again. (This is actually its only instance thus far.) For a first-blush source, I looked at the Wikipedia entry on the word, but it focused on the shifted and varied meanings of the word — and did not mention whether “the majority of the LGBT community now considers the term transvestite outdated and offensive.” Clearly, there are far better sources than Wikipedia — what would you suggest?

      Once again, I do think deeply about word choice in my articles, but I’m certainly open to discussing it at any time. Thanks again for bringing this particular issue to my attention, and I’ll certainly continue to consider it.

      • Robert,
        Thank you for your help in making the community more aware of what is going on around them. We appreciate your interest and any publication leading to a better solution for everyone.

        I really appreciate that you were on top of this crime and I also appreciate your quick response to your readers! Thanks Again!!!

      • Robert this is actually for Julia, I just wanted to entertain you.

        Julia if a bird with a beak, webbed feet, feathers, and a quack walked into a boutique and shoplifted, what would you call the bird??? A duck, of course. Very simple. The physical characteristics of the bird give you the human instict to directly identify the bird as a duck. Oh my goodness please forgive me Julia, I meant to call the duck by his proper name Antidae, please understand I am human and it was just my first instict. “DING DING DING” When you see a male dressed as a female, the normal human instict is to directly identify that male as a cross dresser or possibly even a transvestite. So don’t go freaking out on people for being not only human, but normal. I easily identify the restroom I use by the easily identifiable stick figure of a male posted on the bathroom door, this is normal. I bet the shoplifter in this video can’t identify himself with either sign. I honestly hope the guy was just dumb enough to dress like a woman and go down in history as the worst disguise ever! Don’t be outraged at my comment, just be thankful you got your ignorant little rant out about your little cross dressing friends and realize “Hey, this is America”. This is the country of freedom of speech, and it’s okay for us to be normal and call it like we see it. A journalist has that right. So deal with it. If you dress or carry yourself as a cross dresser or transvestite, deal with it. Nobody is worried or concerned about the proper lingo on which we call a male who has this disgusting classification. The proper term for a male dressing as such is “disgusting”. #freedomofspeech = priceless

        Your welcome Robert

    • Well that didn’t take long. Was wondering how long it would take for someone to drop the “card”. Regardless of personal feeling of language usage, this PERSON robbed the store. Sick of always having to be PC for someone to not get offended.

  3. Regarding the use if the word transvestite, are u freaking kidding me?? Get a life lady. The perp being a transvestite is absolutely integral to catching this crook. Keep your word policing to yourself & the ACLU.

  4. WOW! I thought that video was disturbing, the thought of someone stealing like that from my business, then I got to the comments. Wowza, we got some real screwballs out there!

  5. Who cares if the thief was actually a transvestite or not? I’d be curious to know if he had stolen womens clothing or mens clothing.

  6. As a member of the LGBT community and a staunch supporter of a persons rights based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, I am mortified by the blatant rhetoric of the responses to this article. If a person is stealing from anyone for any reason, he/she is a thief. If he/she is dressed in ANY identifiable manor that is how you describe the perpetrator. I am wondering how anyone is of such a shallow mind they are wanting to misconstrue the article to think that the author is intonating all transvestites are thieves. This is nothing more than someone using political correctness to defend a person who is with out a doubt guilty of a crime. Folks, if I can get away with a crime because I dress in a way that using a particular word to describe me makes it legal or defensable, something is pretty damned wrong with this country! Get over it people…the person dressed in a way that the word “Transvestite” was appropriate and applicable. I ask, are we now to ban the movie The Rocky Horror PIcture Show (a picture which went a VERY long way to forward the importance of the LGBT cause and helped immeasureably in bringing about tolerance) in our rush to be the most politically correct nation in the world because of the song “Sweet Transvestite” (A song which I might add is historically a LGBT anthem)? Defending this person in any way based on this word is a flagrant violation of the shop owners rights to offer products for sale and have protection under the law to bring thieves to justice if they steal from their store, plain and simple!

  7. Well, I try to be sensitive to the stigma which transgender persons face in our society, so I always try to avoid deragatory terms and/or pronoun confusion when discussing them. However, to be fair, the out-dated terms and pronoun confusion are easy to fall into because for those of us on the outside looking in, the matter is, frankly, confusing.

    However, patiently educating people is a constructive way to clear up that confusion.

    As to associating cross-dressing with shoplifting because of this article, I think it’s apparent that the perpetrator’s race carries a much heavier stigma in that area than his gender identity. Assuming, of course, that his choice of clothing was even a question of gender identity and not simply a ruse.

  8. Thanks to Uptown Messenger for enlightening me on two issues; first, the unfortunate theft at LoLa and second, the current, “correct”, use of the word transvestite. I learned from the article as well as the comments made. Rob, you are a great resource to our city. We could support LoLa by shopping there during this holiday season.

  9. The most important thing people should take away from from this well written article is that a locally owned boutique was robbed and that is a crime no matter who did it. I hope that the police catch the person responsible for this crime. It takes a lot of work for someone to open a new business and make it successful. Tiffany has done a remarkable job with Lola and I hope the community continues to support locally owned businesses such as hers.

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