A First Lady Goes Shoplifting

Manuel Noriega's mug shot in 1990
Manuel Noriega's mug shot in 1990

by Ray Setterfield

March 20, 1992 — The exclusive and expensive shop in Miami was called Look. But when Felicidad Noriega, wife of the deposed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, came calling on this day she decided to do more than just “look”.

She was arrested after she and a friend were caught snipping buttons from 10 jackets on display at the shop, owned by the Burdines department store chain. Both women were charged with shoplifting $305 worth of buttons.

Police said that Panama`s former First Lady and her friend dropped the buttons into a bag of merchandise that they had genuinely purchased. After passing several cash registers in the store at the Dadeland Mall shopping centre, they left without paying and were arrested outside by the store’s security staff.

Charged with grand theft, the couple spent the night in jail before being released on $1,500 bail each. The police said the women caused $1,242 in damage to the clothes.

Normally, Felicidad would turn to her husband to resolve such a little local difficulty, but he had his own problems. He was nearing the end of his trial for racketeering and drug trafficking, for which he would soon receive a 40-year jail sentence.

In the end, Felicidad’s lawyers signed a deal with the State Attorney’s Office in Miami. The charges against her were reduced to petty theft and criminal mischief and it was agreed no further action would be taken provided she would undertake counselling or community service and pay $1,320 in damages. And that buttoned up the case.

Published: April 24, 2016

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