Saturday, 15 June 2024

Attorney general announces felony charges against members of statewide organized retail theft ring

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Friday announced the arrest of and felony charges against members of an organized retail theft ring operating throughout California, including Los Angeles, Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura counties.

The California Department of Justice filed charges against nine defendants following a California Highway Patrol investigation that began in 2021.

During a search and arrest operation in Los Angeles on Monday, officers arrested five of the targeted suspects and recovered approximately $62,000 in cash and $135,000 of stolen merchandise from major retailers, including Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, J.C. Penney and Lululemon.

An additional suspect from the operation was charged on Tuesday and remains at large. Three suspects were charged in a separate complaint on Tuesday for allegedly possessing over $17,000 in stolen merchandise.

“Organized retail theft hurts businesses, employees, and the public — and this criminal activity will not be tolerated in California,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Today we take another step toward tackling this issue by announcing the arrests and felony charges against individuals alleged to be participants in an organized criminal scheme targeting retailers throughout our state. I want to thank the California Highway Patrol and our retail partners for their collaboration and help in this investigation. As our state’s chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who participate in organized retail theft.”

“The CHP is proud of the partnership and collaboration our Organized Retail Crime Task Force has with our local law enforcement partners, the Department of Justice, and the retail industry in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting organized retail theft rings,” said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray. “This case exemplifies law enforcement’s collective commitment to enhance public safety throughout the state of California. I applaud the efforts of our investigators who have worked tirelessly on this case which resulted in the arrests and recovery of the stolen merchandise.”

"Organized Retail Crime impacts all retailers from small businesses to national chains. ORC hurts consumers, endangers our employees, and impacts the neighborhoods where retailers operate,” said Rachel Michelin, President, California Retailers Association. “We appreciate the work of the ORC Task Forces and the Attorney General who shares our belief that prosecution and enforcement of these cases can deter this behavior. ORC is very real and impacts our most vulnerable communities. The work of the ORC Taskforce and the Attorney General, in partnership with retailers, is a positive example of how collaboration and communication can stem the tide of retail theft in California."

As part of the scheme targeted during Monday’s search and arrest operation, the suspects allegedly stole and transported hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods, held the items, and shipped them internationally.

These suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, organized retail theft, grand theft, possession of stolen property, and a special allegation alleging that the theft totaled more than $100,000.

The additional three suspects arrested and charged on Tuesday are charged with possession of stolen merchandise. The suspects were charged in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

California and states across the country have seen a pattern of organized retail crime.

According to a 2020 national survey, U.S. retailers lose approximately $700,000 per every $1 billion in sales to organized retail crime.

Attorney General Bonta and law enforcement partners throughout the state proactively collaborate to end organized retail crime.

In December 2021, Attorney General Bonta announced the sentencing of a group involved in organized retail theft in the Bay Area.

Late last year, Attorney General Bonta brought together retailers and law enforcement to address the challenge of organized retail theft and develop strategies for combating this criminal activity head-on.

It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.

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