5 plead guilty in one of largest retail theft busts in CA history, attorney general says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office and San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe announced multiple people have pleaded guilty in one of the largest retail theft busts in California history.

Bonta said the five defendants who were involved in the multi-million retail theft scheme targeting Bay Area retailers have pleaded guilty to felony charges -- including conspiracy to commit organized retail theft, receiving stolen property, and money laundering.

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The lead defendant, Danny Louis Drago, is scheduled to be sentenced to six years in state prison early next year.

Drago, Edgar Geovany Robles Morales, Isis Vasquez Villanueva, Jose Villatoro, and Michelle Renee Fowler were arrested during a search and arrest warrant operation announced in Sept. 2020. Law enforcement seized and recovered approximately $8 million in stolen merchandise from retailers including CVS, Target and Walgreens as well as $85,000 in cash from the defendants' house, warehouse and storage facilities. Over $1.8 million was seized from the defendants' various bank accounts, Bonta said.

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Bonta said, "Organized retail theft is making the headlines today but, as this announcement makes clear, at the California Department of Justice, we have always been working on these types of cases. Preventing retail theft is a top priority and our work will continue."

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office told ABC7 news that the stolen items were gathered over a three-year period. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office has made similar big findings before.

In January 2020, Operation Shattered Glass led to the arrests of eight people after they discovered 2.5 million dollars worth of stolen property, mostly from car break-ins.

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The message from the State Attorney General was intended for criminals and to perhaps appease the public.

"Today's announcement should serve as a warning shot to anyone thinking about participating in organized retail theft and committing brazen crimes for no regard for the safety of workers, our businesses and our community," Bonta warned.

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