SAN FRANCISCO - Three people were charged on Wednesday with multiple counts of stealing products from smoke shops, liquor stores and high-end retail stores, mostly in the East Bay and Vallejo, officials announced.
The defendants were arraigned at the Contra Costa County Superior Court and face charges of organized retail theft, second-degree burglary, grand theft, vandalism, and more.
Speaking at a news conference in San Francisco, Attorney General Rob Bonta said the trio were allegedly responsible for about 25 commercial burglaries and attempted burglaries in Walnut Creek, Dublin and Vallejo, which resulted in more than $650,000 in losses to the stores from Sept. 8 to Nov. 14. There was also one case stemming from San Diego.
The California Department of Justice is prosecuting the case. It's unclear who is representing the three defendants, identified in a criminal complaint as: Robert Lee Johnson, Alejandro de Jesus McDonald and Quinn Jamari Edwards.
"Organized retail theft harms businesses, retailers, and consumers – and puts the public at risk," Bonta said.
Police agencies, including the FBI, said the suspects burglarized the businesses by breaking through security doors and gates in the middle of the night while wearing dark clothing, masks, hoods, and gloves.
Police said they filled garbage bags with cigarette cartons, alcohol, and cash.
In two instances, the suspects stole ATM machines, one from an open Chevron gas station and the other from a closed smoke shop.
Police stopped nearly all the burglaries, but often, the suspects fled in getaway cars, police said.
On two occasions, the fleeing suspect vehicles hit patrol vehicles, one of which resulted in injury to an officer, police said.
Some of the examples include:
- A suspect drove a stolen Land Rover through the front window of the Louis Vuitton store located in Walnut Creek at approximately 4:20 a.m. on Oct. 3. Approximately 10–15 suspects ran into the store and stole merchandise valued at $246,025.
- The suspects burglarized a Discount Cigarette shop in Dublin on Oct. 8.
- Six to eight suspects entered a Nordstrom in San Diego on Nov. 8 during business hours and stole several Chanel purses with a total value of approximately $120,000.
- The suspects burglarized a smoke shop in Vallejo on Nov. 14.
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.