During an exclusive jailhouse interview with The New York Post, the serial thief who topped the city in stealing busts last year with 46 arrests says he took advantage of his Queens neighborhood’s anxieties, poor store security, and soft-on-crime prosecutors. Isaac Rodriguez, dubbed “Man of Steal” on the front page of the Oct. 3, 2021 edition of the New York Post, robbed a Jackson Heights Walgreens at least 37 times last year, stocking up on everything he could fast convert to cash, which he then swiftly turned to heroin-cocaine speedballs.
Rodriguez told the Post, “Where I come from, people mind their business, and if they don’t, bad things happen to them. I’m from the hood. Some employees would try to talk to me, but they would never touch me.” He continued, “Stealing was the only way I knew to get money fast to tend to my habit.”
The 23-year-old serial thief would enter the store with a backpack and fill it with protein drinks, body lotion, toothpaste, soap, and tampons. He then sold the stuff for drug money on the street or at pawn shops. Nearly 50 arrests did little to slow his theft, he stated, “I may have got caught 46 times — I can’t tell you the number, but I got away a lot more than that.”
In January, Rodriguez was sentenced to serve at least until December 19 at Rikers Island after he was caught stealing from a Walgreens in Corona where he had an order of protection against him. However, he feels that finally being sentenced to prison is saving his life. Rodriguez insists he’s clean and swears he’s a new man. With approximately 200 days left on his sentence, he stated that he hopes to complete his GED and put a stop to his criminal career. “This is a blessing in disguise. I know that I wasn’t going to be sober if I was still out there. I would’ve died sooner or later,” he said.
Brazen shoplifting is a relatively recent problem in New York City. Many believe it to be the result of legislation that removed pretrial imprisonment and cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent crimes, including grand larceny. Criminals could be arrested over and over again only to be issued with a court summons. Petty and grand larcenies have increased by 42% and 51%, respectively, in 2021 compared to the same period last year. Grand larcenies are up 99%, from 206 last year to 410 this year in the 115th Precinct, where Rodriguez committed most of his crimes.