Cops nab duo in LeFrak City lace robbery

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"She left a card here before," McLean said.

Weeks before allegedly making off with four sheets of finely woven African lace, the woman dropped off a business card at the 57th Avenue store looking for a referral for her freelance hair-braiding operation, McLean said.

Then sometime after 5 p.m. on April 25, the woman and her husband entered the shop at 97-09 57th Ave., grabbed $1,000 worth of the cloth crafted in Swaziland and took off, McLean told police, according to the criminal complaint filed against the pair.

McLean said he tried to stop the woman, but her husband intervened with The Club - a steel automobile anti-theft device - according to the complaint.

"He was going to hit me, so I put my arm up," McLean said.

The complaint said McLean told investigators that he suffered swelling in his arm and substantial pain.

When a clerk told the shopkeeper the alleged thief was the same woman who solicited business weeks before, McLean said he handed her card off to the police.

Police arrested Mary Apawu, 37, who lives at 97-28 57th Ave., on April 28, McLean said, three days after the alleged robbery. The date could not be confirmed with police. But the Queens district attorney charged her with third-degree assault, petit larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and harassment.

Police said they arrested Stephen Apawu, the woman's husband, the afternoon of April 28 inside the store where the alleged assault occurred.

McLean said the 45-year-old New York City transit worker had come back to broker a bargain for his wife, who police found with the stolen merchandise, according to the criminal complaint.

"He tried to make a deal with me so I wouldn't press charges," McLean said

"I couldn't do anything about it, the (cloth was) already at the precinct," McLean said he told Apawu before calling the cops.

Apawu, like his wife, has been charged with third-degree assault, petit larceny criminal possession of stolen property and harassment, the district attorney's office said.

The Apawus were arraigned before Queens County Criminal Court Justice Joseph Zayas and then released on their own recognizance, according to law enforcement sources. They were scheduled to return to court on May 27. If convicted, both face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the district attorney.

McLean, who has worked there since December, said the store had never been robbed before.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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