The San Francisco District Attorney's Office is calling attention to a case in which one woman suspected of participating in a rampant spree of retail thefts has been arrested and charged.
In the DA's office's ongoing effort to prosecute organized and rampant retail thievery, one particularly egregious suspect is facing prosecution. The suspect is 30-year-old Carmelita Barela of San Francisco, and she's being charged with 16 counts of retail theft and other charges relating to crimes committed at the formerly named Westfield San Francisco Centre mall between March and October.
The SFPD arrested Barela on November 6.
"Organized retail theft is a source of deep concern for the residents and businesses of our city," District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement typical to these press releases. "This arrest and prosecution reflects our ongoing commitment to hold repeat offenders accountable for their actions."
Barela has been linked to 20 separate incidents of shoplifting and organized retail theft, according to SFPD and DA's office investigators. And she is being prosecuted by the DA's Organized Retail Theft Vertical Prosecution Grant Program, which this year received a $2 million grant from the California Board of State and Community Corrections.
According to the prosecution's evidence, Barela participated in one particular organized burglary at Bath & Body Works inside the mall in which "she and others stole approximately $15,079.90 worth of goods."
Unlike in other cases that the DA's office has called attention to in recent years, the judge in this case granted the prosecutors' motion to keep Barela in jail pending a preliminary hearing on November 13, citing public safety risk.
The DA's office says it is working with the SFPD to identify Barela's accomplices, and more arrests may be pending.
The case comes after a year in which in the mall's previous owner/operator, Westfield Corporation, chose to default on its loan and walk away from the property. This has been seen as part of a larger negative trend in downtown San Francisco, though Westfield has for a couple of years been divesting itself of the beleaguered U.S. mall market.
One of the mall's anchor tenants, Nordstrom, also moved out in July, leaving nearly half the complex's square footage vacant. And subsequently, the movie theater on the mall's top floor, Century Theatres, shut down in June.
A court-appointed receiver has now taken over operation of the mall, and will presumably be responding to tenants' complaints about the need for additional security to prevent theft. In September, tenant American Eagle sued the mall's operator, accusing Westfield of "full neglect" in the last several years.