- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

NEW YORK — Five male students from the city’s first homosexual, lesbian and transgender public high school have been charged with a series of robberies pulled off while the suspects dressed as female prostitutes.

The cross-dressing teenagers, all between 16 and 17 years old, donned blonde wigs and earrings and then solicited sex from their victims, sources said. The boys then flashed fake badges to show their “johns” they were undercover cops and handcuffed their “tricks,” who, in exchange for escaping arrest, handed over their wallets, credit cards and, in two instances, cash machine PIN numbers.

“The victims believed they were police offices,” police sources said. “They would not have complied otherwise.”

The accused boys attend the Harvey Milk High School in Manhattan, which opened this year with roughly 170 students amid a flurry of protests from conservative activists, Orthodox Jews and parents.

A detective spotted the cross-dressing robbers shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday in the West Village. He noticed the carrot color of the hairdo sported by one of the suspects from a wanted poster issued by police.

All five suspects were charged with robbery and criminal impersonation of a police officer.

Using a good-cop-bad-cop approach, one assailant would scream at the robbery victims while another said gently: “You’re OK,” adding, “Consider yourself lucky” after releasing them.

“By the time they were done, [the victims] were just happy to get out of there,” one official close to the investigation said.

Authorities said five robberies had been carried out in the past month, the most recent on Thursday when three teens forced a victim against a wall at gunpoint. The robbers took $85 from the victim who refused to divulge his PIN number.

The Harvey Milk High School is named after San Francisco’s first openly homosexual county supervisor. He was murdered in 1978.

A homosexual rights youth advocacy group, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, has managed and financed the school program since its inception. The city’s board of education, which no longer exists, last year allocated $3.2 million to renovate the building that houses the school.

Last month several students from Harvey Milk were at the center of a brawl in which a Brooklyn man sustained a puncture wound in his back. Three students said the man threatened them with a screwdriver outside the school.

Authorities said the fighting began after the man, who was sitting in his car outside a coffee shop waiting for his wife, told the students that the way they were behaving “reflected poorly” on other black youngsters.

The students began throwing bottles at his car, police officials said, and the man got out wielding a screwdriver.

According to prosecutors at a court hearing, one of the students was carrying a knife.

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