Felony charges have been filed against nine defendants in a statewide retail theft ring that operated through several California counties, including Los Angeles.

Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the charges Friday, after a Los Angeles search-and-arrest operation led to the arrest of five suspects, Monday, March 21. These five are being charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, organized retail theft, grand theft, possession of stolen property, and a special allegation that the theft totaled more than $100,000.

“Organized retail theft hurts businesses, employees, and the public — and this criminal activity will not be tolerated in California,” Bonta said. “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. As our state’s chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who participate in organized retail theft.”

While one of the nine suspects is still at large, three other people were arrested on Tuesday, March 22, and are being charged with possession of stolen merchandise.

In the operation, investigators recovered $135,000 worth of merchandise from retail stores such as Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, J.C. Penney, and Lululemon, as well as $65,000 in cash.

The defendants are believed to be linked to thefts in multiple counties such as Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura.

The state alleges that the individuals being charged, stole and transported hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise before shipping them internationally.

“Organized Retail Crime (ORC) impacts all retailers from small businesses to national chains,” Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association said. “ORC hurts consumers, endangers our employees, and impacts the neighborhoods where retailers operate. ORC is very real and impacts our most vulnerable communities.”

LA Weekly