$1 million in goods recovered from California retail theft crew, authorities say

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A specialized unit of the California Highway Patrol has recovered more than $1 million worth of stolen cosmetics and other merchandise during searches this week in Paramount and Los Angeles, and they arrested a woman allegedly connected to an organized theft ring that targeted retailers across Southern California.

The crew has hit a variety of local retailers, including CVS, Sephora, Ulta Beauty, Rite Aid, Nordstrom and the 99 Cents Only store, the CHP said.

Brenda Yanez, 48, was arrested on suspicion of multiple charges, including grand theft and possession of stolen property. Investigators with the CHP Southern Division Organized Retail Crime Taskforce have been working with various loss prevention personnel to return the stolen merchandise to retailers, according to a CHP statement.

The stolen merchandise was found when investigators served search warrants at a warehouse in Paramount and at The Makeup Store on Whittier Boulevard in Los Angeles. The officers also found tools believed to have been used to remove retailers’ anti-theft devices, the CHP said.

Early estimates provided by loss prevention personnel valued the recovered stolen merchandise at more than $1 million, according to the CHP.

It wasn’t clear if authorities have identified any other suspects in the alleged ring.

The recovery and arrest came as state leaders celebrate what they describe as new records in combating organized retail crime.

The CHP Organized Retail Crime Taskforce was announced by Governor Gavin Newsom following a series of high-profile smash-and-grab robberies by organized crews targeting retailers. Surveillance footage of groups of thieves swarming into stores and grabbing armfuls of merchandise have drawn widespread attention.

During the first 11 months of the year, the task force made more than 1,000 arrests and recovered 187,515 stolen items, according to the governor’s office.

Those arrests included multiple local busts by the CHP task force, which chases crews that often cross city, county and even state boundaries.

CHP officers in August took a man into custody tied to a retail theft ring believed to have been involved in more than 90 smash-and-grab robberies this year in Southern California and elsewhere. The suspects netted about $710,000 in stolen property from stores in Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, as well as in Arizona and Nevada, CHP Sgt. Jim Kelley said at the time. Among retailers impacted were Nike, Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom Rack, T.J. Maxx and Victoria’s Secret.

Also in August, a man and a woman were arrested in connection with an investigation into an organized retail theft ring involving nearly $200,000 worth of stolen products in Los Angeles.

In February, state Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that eight people were arrested on suspicion of taking part in a statewide theft ring targeting retail stores across California, many of them Apple computer stores. Riverside, San Bernardino, and Orange counties were among those targeted.



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