Standing in front of a CVS in Burlingame, the attorney general announced guilty pleas in what is supposedly one of the largest theft-ring arrests in California history.
San Francisco has the reputation as the national epicenter of organized retail shoplifting, though the National Federation of Retailers will tell you that it’s worse in Los Angeles. It’s also bad in Palo Alto, and in San Mateo County, where today state attorney general Rob Bonta stood in front of a CVS, flanked by law enforcement, and announced five guilty pleas in what KGO is calling “ one of largest retail theft busts in California history.”
We've announced the sentencing of multiple defendants involved in a scheme to resell stolen goods from Bay Area retailers.— Rob Bonta (@AGRobBonta) December 4, 2021
We must protect businesses, workers, & consumers. Those involved in organized retail theft will be held accountable.https://t.co/NsfoiCbUzu pic.twitter.com/2DdH1sVImc
"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," Bonta said at a press conference. "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.”
California AG Rob Bonta says five people from San Mateo County were arrested and pleaded guilty to stealing $8M in merchandise from multiple retailers. Over the course of the investigation, $1,874,633.65 was seized from the defendants’ bank accounts. @kron4news pic.twitter.com/6FJx7NQDDo— Rob Nesbitt (@RobNesbittNews) December 3, 2021
It was indeed quite the haul. According to the Chronicle, “Law enforcement officials recovered around $8 million worth of stolen merchandise from retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Target, from the ring’s warehouse, residences and storage facility, along with roughly $85,000 in cash. Officials also seized nearly $1.9 million from the ring’s various bank accounts.”
The ringleader is Concord resident Danny Louis Drago, who’s scheduled to be sentenced to six years in state prison, according to KPIX. That station also reports that his wife Michelle Renee Fowler “was sentenced to three years in state prison, suspended pending two years’ supervised probation, including 364 days in San Mateo County jail. Robles Morales and [Isis] Villanueva were sentenced to probation with 364 days of electronic monitoring or work program. [Jose] Villatoro was sentenced to probation and 30 days in jail.”
So this really ought to put a dent in the organized retail crime wave, right? Not likely. These arrests all took place in September 2020, today was just an announcement that Bonta had gotten guilty pleas out of the suspects. In other words, this is optics, hence Bonta doing the press conference in front of a CVS. But California has not had good optics on the shoplifting front lately, so give Rob Bonta his one good news day on this particular front.
Related: Newsom Says Organized Smash-and-Grab Robbers Will Be Punished, Says Mayors Must 'Step Up' [SFist]
Image: San Mateo County Sheriff's Office via Facebook