Lakeesha Harris, 35, works very hard for her money.
At one point, the single mother says she was working 12 hours a day, six days a week at “Sammy’s Touch,” a carryout restaurant in the Woodlawn neighborhood to make ends meet.
When Harris started working for the restaurant’s owner, Tareq Sweis, in 2012, she had already worked on and off for his relatives for a decade.
“I worked for him for two years and never thought for a moment that there was anything wrong,” Harris told me.
But on Nov. 15, 2013, a new hire whom Harris was training, phoned her and was “hysterical,” claiming she had found a camera hidden inside a bucket in the employee’s restroom, Harris said.
“The way the camera was angled you could see between our legs. She was upset and I didn’t know what to say. She videotaped the hidden camera and took it straight to the police,” Harris said.
By the time Harris got to the store, the buckets in the bathroom had been rearranged and the alleged hidden camera was gone, she said.
A day after the camera was allegedly discovered, Sweis was arrested and charged with three misdemeanor counts for “unauthorized video recording,” according to Sally Daly, spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.
“The actual crime pursuant to the language in the statute involves a person placing a video device in a restroom with the intent to make a video record without consent.”
Sweis said “no comment” when I reached out to him at the restaurant.
Sweis is expected to appear in court on May 21.
Harris is outraged.
“They didn’t go in there and get his computer or get his phone,” she said.
Daly confirmed police never “seized the video camera and did not ask for a search warrant for the computer.”
“In order to charge this case as a felony, an actual video tape recording would have to be found. Or if one of these women had seen a recording and could testify to that, then we could charge as a felony,” Daly said.
The Chicago Police Department is reviewing “the specifics about the police response in this case,” according to Adam Collins, director of news affairs for the city’s police.
Robert Johnson, the attorney representing Harris, said he sees no difference between his client’s case and that of Dr. Robert Weiss, a prominent eye doctor recently charged with secretly recording women in a restroom.
“These women are not rich, and the only difference I see is economics and race. When you mention race, people start rolling their eyes, but there is no reason not to subpoena the guy and search his computer,” he said.
Weiss, who has offices at the Chicago Eye Institute on North Milwaukee and at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, is charged with two counts of “unauthorized videotaping” — felonies, Daly said.
In Weiss’ case, police obtained a search warrant.
But in this instance, Harris said she feels like she is the one who is being punished since the allegation led to her quitting her job and becoming unemployed.
“I have four children and Thanksgiving and Christmas were ruined,” she said.