Suspects held in Home Depot scams along West Coast

A crew of thieves that targeted Home Depot stores along the West Coast was arrested by Hercules police, bringing to an end a multi-million-dollar fraud ring, authorities said Monday.

The suspects would steal everything from smoke alarms and dimmer switches, then go to another store "to return the merchandise for cash," said Connie Van Putten, a reserve Hercules police detective.

It happened over and over - for four years, to the tune of $4.5 million.

Each time, the thieves got away.That is, until they came to Hercules.

"Our officers were alerted that there had been a number of thefts at Home Depots, and they thought the suspects were coming to Hercules," Van Putten said.

On Friday, an officer was flagged down by Home Depot loss prevention. The officer found a Ford Econoline van parked in a strip mall across from the store. It was the same van that Home Depot organized crime investigators had been looking for.

"He watched the van, which was unoccupied at the time," Van Putten said. "Then the occupants returned, he contacted the two males and detained them."

Inside the van, police said, was more evidence from the scam.

"They found almost $10,000 worth of stolen Home Depot merchandise in the vehicle," Van Putten said.

The suspects, Miguel Angel Alderete, 49, and Antonio Marquez, 56, had been busy, police say. The goods in the van belonged to stores in Tracy, Fairfield and Vallejo.

"It's sort of disheartening to hear that it was a statewide network," said Hercules City Councilmember Dan Romero. 

But he added, "I am so pleased with our police department, and coming from a small city, it just shows how the city police department is working really well with the local Home Depot."

In a statement, Home Depot said, "Organized retail crime is a serious and growing problem for all retailers. The Home Depot has dedicated investigators who work with law enforcement at all levels to stop crimes like these, and we’re grateful for the partnership with the Hercules Police Department to make these arrests."