An organized retail theft ring that netted around $1 million in stolen Apple products over the last six months has been busted following an investigation by the CHP's retail theft unit.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California Highway Patrol announced the bust Thursday, saying that eight arrests were made and the suspects now face multiple felony grand theft charges.
This organized ring of thieves is believed to have targeted Apple Stores in eleven counties in Northern and Southern California, including San Francisco, Yolo, Monterey, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Marin, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside. The thefts occurred between August 2022 and January 2023.
"The California Highway Patrol’s partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies, along with our private industry, continue to result in arrests and recovery of millions of dollars in stolen products," said California Highway Patrol, Golden Gate Division Chief Ezery Beauchamp in a statement. "I would like to recognize the incredible work done by all those involved and acknowledge the Attorney General’s Office for their ongoing support and determination to prosecute these cases."
Bonta thanks the CHP and other law enforcement partners, and said, "Brazen criminal activity, such as the organized retail theft operation we have taken down today, will not be tolerated in California."
The eight suspects have been charged by the CA Department of Justice with conspiracy to commit retail theft, organized retail theft, grand theft, theft in the amount over $500,000, and "an aggravated white collar enhancement."
This crew was likely responsible for a widely publicized robbery of the Palo Alto Apple Store that took place on Black Friday, in November 2022. During that robbery, as KRON4 reported at the time, two suspects entered the busy store and stole $35,000 worth of iPhones and laptops. One of the suspects reportedly threatened shoppers, saying they should not try to stop them, but no weapons were used. The whole thing was caught on cellphone video, as seen below.
San Francisco's Union Square Apple Store has been targeted by thieves many times, and a different ring of Apple Store thieves was busted in 2018 and accused of targeting stores in 19 California counties, including SF. That bust resulted in 17 arrests, as SFGate reported at the time, and that group's haul was also said to have been around $1 million.
In addition to the CHP's Organized Retail Theft Crimes Task Force, investigative work came from the FBI's SF office, the Oakland Police Department, Riverside Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Marshal's Office.
The bust of this retail theft ring was preceded by a bust last March of another statewide ring in which five individuals allegedly targeted clothing stores in Los Angeles, Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Ventura counties.
Photo: Harry Cunningham