Eight people have been arrested on suspicion of taking part in a statewide retail theft ring, California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office announced Thursday, Feb. 9.
Prosecutors allege that from August 2022 to January 2023, a group of suspects wreaked havoc at retail stores across California, many of them Apple computer stores. The culprits would enter stores and hold customers and employees at bay while stealing items worth thousands of dollars, such as phones and tablets. Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties were among those targeted.
According to a criminal complaint, two of the suspects targeted an Apple Store in Rancho Cucamonga, then another in Irvine the very next day.
Each suspect faces multiple felony charges, including conspiracy to commit retail theft, organized retail theft, grand theft, theft in the amount more than $500,000, and an aggravated white collar enhancement. The crimes were investigated by numerous California agencies including the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Theft Crimes Task Force, the Oakland Police Department, Riverside Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
A 2020 survey found that U.S. retailers lose $700,000 per day for every $1 billion in sales due to organized retail crime. In November, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced efforts to curb a spike in retail crime, which included the expansion of the CHP retail task force. In December, a video surfaced of thieves taking more than $30,000 worth of items from Apple’s flagship store in Palo Alto.
“Organized retail theft costs businesses, retailers, and consumers – and puts the public at risk,” Bonta said in a statement. “Brazen criminal activity, such as the organized retail theft operation we have taken down today, will not be tolerated in California.”
The public can report complaints or tips about retail theft to the Attorney General’s Office at oag.ca.gov/retail-theft.