Syracuse woman charged for robbing local college students

Aubrey Zych, Co- News & Features Editor


Le Moyne students can leave campus feeling a little safer knowing the woman wanted for robbing local college students and Syracuse residents has been found. DeWitt police arrested a Syracuse woman on Friday, Sept. 14, charging her with as many as 20 robbery scams, including one involving a Le Moyne College student and another with a Syracuse University student.

Dena R. Phoenix, 45, was arrested Friday afternoon at her home at 227 Warner Ave., Syracuse and was charged with petit larceny. Police were able to identify her from a security tape retrieved from the Le Moyne Plaza on the day the Le Moyne student was robbed this past summer. Police say Phoenix may face additional charges once the investigation is complete.

According to Syracuse police, a Le Moyne senior was leaving campus from Parking Lot D on Aug. 3 when Phoenix, dressed in magenta scrubs, approached the student’s car yelling for help. Phoenix then jumped into the passenger side of the car and ordered her to drive.

The student noted that Phoenix became very aggressive and demanding, telling her where to drive, which speed to go and which lane to drive in. The student was ordered to drive to the Key Bank on West Colvin and South Salina Street, where she was forced to withdraw money from the ATM.

Phoenix told the student she was pregnant and needed a drink so that she could take her medicine. She ordered the student to drive to the Middle Eastern Market, where Phoenix was again caught on a security tape entering and leaving the store.

The victim then escaped and drove away unharmed.

According to DeWitt police, approximately one month later, Phoenix, who was again dressed in magenta scrubs, flagged down and approached the vehicle of a sophomore at Syracuse University.

The 19-year-old student was stopped at a light on East Colvin Street on Friday, Sept. 7 when Phoenix approached her. The student gave money to the woman and drove away immediately, remaining unharmed.

DeWitt police stated that numerous people have called in the past week claiming they were victimized by the same woman in the past months, but had not reported it to police at the time. Police say the suspect may have taken money from as many as 20 other victims, dating as far back as December.

According to John O’Brien, director of Security at Le Moyne, these are not common occurrences for the college.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened on the Le Moyne campus, but we’re fortunate that these crimes are rare here,” O’Brien explained. “It’s a rather unusual tactic for someone to try to just convince somebody to take them somewhere. But lots of people feel sorry for these people and give in.”

O’Brien advises students to never stop their vehicle for a stranger, even if the person seems sincere.

“Whether you’re a student or an adult, when people approach you – and I don’t want to sound insensitive – but you really need to drive away,” he said. “Drive away, and then report it [to security]. Or if you are home, report it to the police.”

Despite the unfortunate event n August, O’Brien is confident that Le Moyne remains a safe place for students and faculty.

“Do I think the students here are in any kind of jeopardy? No,” O’Brien added. “However, it should remind everyone that sometimes the most innocent conversations may not be what they seem. Even as innocent as it may appear, there are people who can coerce us. Basically, that’s what (Phoenix) did.”

The investigation into Phoenix’s crimes is ongoing. Anyone with information or who was a victim is encouraged to contact DeWitt police at 449-3640 or [email protected]