"This was a very sophisticated organized operation involving multiple individuals, involving multiple counties throughout the state and going out of state as well and selling products overseas," said Bonta, referring to the arrests of eight suspects Monday in Los Angeles County.
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Officers seized $62,000 in cash and more than $150,000 in stolen merchandise from major retailers.
"Macy's, Columbia Sportswear, Ambercrombie & Fitch, JCPenney, Lululemon in multiple counties from our southern counties to central and even northern, so this was a major operation," said Bonta, including Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.
The investigation began last year; a joint effort including CHP's Organized Retail Task Force, local law enforcement, and the retail industry.
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"Retailers are starting to track their product and they'll turn that information over so the task force can follow it and make that arrest," said Rachel Michelin, President, California Retailers Association. "You're seeing more and more retailers hire security guards - armed security guards and it's taking away from that shopping experience," she said, adding every arrest matters. "Any time we make arrests it makes a little bit of a dent."
Attorney General Bonta is confident the charges brought in Monday's arrests will go a long way in deterring more large-scale retail theft.
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"Based on the felony charges we brought for most of the individuals involved, it will be 12 to 19 years in prison."
And Michelin said the arrests come at a critical time. She's worried as more consumers are starting to take matters into their own hands.
"And that's what's really scary," said Michelin. "Is that if we start seeing this vigilante justice out there because people are getting fed up with witnessing this retail theft over and over again, we're going to have a whole other set of problems."