Three illegal aliens caught after massive investigationSheriff’s Captain Anthony La Berge announced the arrest of three suspects who drove away from the Westfield Valencia Town Center in what Sheriff officials are calling one of the most sophisticated organized criminal groups to hit the area in some time.
For the past four weeks, stores in the Valencia Town Center have reported being targeted by a group of thieves who walked away with substantial quantities of clothing and other merchandise.
Their short crime spree came to an abrupt end on Friday, when Santa Clarita Sheriff’s arrested three suspects with more than $2,100 in stolen merchandise.
With the assistance of Gap, Inc. and its Organized Retail Crime Unit, Santa Clarita Sheriff’s coordinated a surveillance operation through the new “City of Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Business Alliance.” Loss Prevention agents waited inside of the mall and watched the three suspects enter different stores, exiting the mall each time to stash their stolen bounty into a waiting vehicle.
“This group operated with such speed and precision, it was more than apparent that they were a professional ring of thieves,” reports Nelson Harrah, Senior National Manager of the Gap, Inc. Organized Retail Crime Unit.
The group entered the mall and stores on three different trips and spent no more than 15 minutes in the commission of this crime. "Working closely with the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s really assisted our efforts to finally catch these criminals and stop them from stealing from more stores," Harrah added. Harrah also reported that the same suspects had been seen by store managers in the mall on prior weeks.
After witnessing the crime team committing their thefts, loss prevention agents notified awaiting Sheriff’s. Patrol cars conducted a felony traffic stop on the corner of Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway at which time Deputies identified and arrested Veronica Guzman, 41; Oswaldo Carrera, 27; and Gladys Espitia, 48; all from Van Nuys.
Along with the arrest, Deputies recovered 73 stolen items from the Disney Store, Hollister Company, and Victoria Secret. The recovery also included “booster bags” and other burglary tools used by the suspects.
“This is another example of how proactive our Sheriff’s Department is when it comes to the business crime in the City of Santa Clarita,” stated Mayor Marsha McLean of the City of Santa Clarita. “We absolutely have the finest men and women out here protecting our homes and businesses from criminals.”
The three suspects are each being held on $500,000 bail and will be arraigned today in Newhall Court on three counts of Commercial Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Burglary, and Possession of Burglary Tools. Two of the suspects had used false names at the time of arrest to attempt to hide from their past criminal records for burglaries in other parts of the county and outstanding warrants. The three are also believed to be undocumented aliens from Columbia, and have additional Immigration Detainers with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department.
“Crime does not pay in the City of Santa Clarita,” stated Captain Anthony La Berge, Chief of Police for the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station. “We will aggressively respond to the needs of our business community and ensure that our businesses are safe. Criminals should be advised that this is not the place to look for victims and commit crimes.”
Detectives would like to speak with anyone who has additional information regarding these suspects or their crimes.