9 people charged with running a statewide retail theft ring

Nine people have been arrested and charged for allegedly organizing a retail theft ring across California, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Friday.

The suspects are accused of stealing items from major retail stores. According to the attorney general, the criminal organization operated in Los Angeles, Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura counties.

The arrests come following a three-month investigation by the California Highway Patrol into an organization known as the South American Theft Group. CHP officials say the group has targeted well-known retailers across California since March 2021.

Officials say the stolen merchandise came from major retailers including Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, JC Penney and Lululemon.

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During a search and arrest operation in Los Angeles on March 21, officers arrested five of the targeted suspects and recovered approximately $62,000 in cash and $135,000 in stolen goods.

Another suspect in the operation was charged on Tuesday but remains free. Three other suspects were charged in a separate complaint filed Tuesday with alleged possession of more than $17,000 in stolen goods, according to the attorney general’s office.

Luis Salcedo, 44, and Kevin Ramirez-Banol, 28, both of Los Angeles, and Christian Perez, 22, and Juan Samiento, 21, both of Hawthorne, were arrested on suspicion of received stolen goods. Leobardo Leony, 58, of Bloomington, was also arrested and is suspected of conspiracy, organized retail theft and receiving stolen goods.

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“Organized retail theft harms businesses, employees and the public – and this criminal activity will not be tolerated in California,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

“As our state’s chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to aggressively pursue and hold accountable those who participate in organized retail theft.”

Organized retail crime has increased dramatically throughout California. According to a 2020 national survey, US retailers lost approximately $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales to organized crime.

Since the creation of the CHP’s Retail Organized Crime Task Force in 2019, the CHP and local law enforcement have participated in 987 investigations, made 434 arrests and recovered more than $20 million in merchandise.

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