Fitness center thief sentenced to 80 months in prison

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Chicago woman convicted of running a criminal enterprise in which she stole money, financial transaction devices and personal items from the locker rooms of fitness centers across multiple states will spend more than six and a half years in prison.

Abeni Brown

Abeni Brown

Abeni Brown, 40, was sentenced Monday in Berrien County Trial Court to a minimum of 80 months and a maximum of 20 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections on one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Brown and her 18-year-old son, Aaron, were arrested March 16 outside the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.

According to the police report, Abeni used a bolt cutter to cut off a lock and steal items from a locker inside the women’s locker room at the YMCA earlier that day. Aaron acted as a lookout while his mother was inside the locker room and used a cell phone to communicate with her.

Police found approximately 38 stolen or fraudulently obtained gift cards, bolt cutters, multiple counterfeit driver’s licenses and a stolen checkbook in Abeni’s backpack.

The police report said Abeni also stole items from the Niles-Buchanan YMCA locker room on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23.

Police said Abeni had 14 prior arrests between 2000 and 2013 out of Illinois and Georgia for fraud, ID theft and forgery.

Abeni had been stealing items from fitness centers around the Midwest, including in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, according to police.

Judge Pasula also ordered Abeni to pay more than $7,000 in restitution to multiple victims.

Judge Angela Pasula, who imposed the sentence, said Abeni has already been to prison six times.

“You’ve been making the theft of other people’s property pretty much your career,” the judge said. “You stole a lot of property from a lot of people. I don’t know why you think that is alright.”

Abeni apologized for her actions.

“I am deeply sorry for the things that I have done,” she said.

Abeni’s lawyer, Shannon Sible, said his client believes she has a mental health issue and wants to get help.

“She hopes to mend her behavior,” he said.