California authorities announced that nine members of an organized crime ring are charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise from California retail stores. 

As announced in a statement by state Attorney General Rob Bonta, members of the alleged organized retail theft ring, which had been under investigation since 2021, have been charged with conspiracy, felony grand theft, and receiving stolen property.

According to Fox Business, the charges were filed following a series of robberies at California retail stores in which offenders smashed windows to steal clothing, jewelry, and other property, 

The group apparently operated throughout California, from Los Angeles to Sacramento, and an extensive search operation led to the arrest of five suspects on Monday, March 21, in Los Angeles.

Following the arrest, police recovered $62,000 in cash and $135,000 in stolen merchandise from stores including Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, JC Penney, Lululemon, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Three other suspects were arrested the following day also in Los Angeles and charged with possessing more than $17,000 in stolen merchandise. The charges against them are for receiving stolen property.

“Organized retail theft hurts businesses, employees, and the public—and this criminal activity will not be tolerated in California,” District Attorney Bonta said in the release.

“Today we take another step toward tackling this issue by announcing the arrests and felony charges against individuals alleged to be participants in an organized criminal scheme targeting retailers throughout our state,” he added.

Both authorities and store owners have stepped up efforts to stop organized crime targeting retail.

Some stores implemented security measures such as setting the most expensive products not to work unless they are properly checked in at the cash register, equipping shopping carts with lockable wheels, or even adopting controversial facial recognition tools, Business Insider noted.

As for state lawmakers, there are two bills under consideration. 

One would establish a platform for reporting goods traded online that are suspected of being stolen. And the other bill would allow separate retail theft cases to be counted together to reach the current felony threshold of $950 approved by voters in 2014.

Regarding this, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill Thursday, said: 

“Currently too many offenders charged with a misdemeanor for theft under $950 are not given any jail time and often re-offend. This bill would help deter serial theft by holding offenders accountable while offering necessary support services so that they will not re-offend.”

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