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News Release

Friday, September 10, 1999

Media Relations

Commercial Burglars Steal $8 Million Dollars in Merchandise

Friday, September 10, 1999

Beginning in May of 1999, the Burglary Special Section of Burglary-Auto Theft Division commenced a lengthy investigation of an organized group of burglary suspects that specialized in early morning commercial burglaries. These burglars had been active for approximately a year and preferred clothing establishments from large department stores to strip mall stores. Near the end of the suspects' crime spree, the suspects began to target smoke shops and stole cigarettes, lighter fluid and smoking displays. The suspects were responsible for at least 57 burglaries with loses between $5 and 8 million dollars. Their crime spree encompassed Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties. The suspects' method of operation was always entry through a rear door, and the suspects were in and out within minutes.

During the early morning hours of August 27, 1999, detectives from the Burglary Special Section, California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department followed the suspects from the Southwest Area of Los Angeles to a shoe and jean store in Anaheim. At that location, the suspects stole $10,000 in clothing within minutes and fled the location. The suspects were followed back to the Los Angeles area and arrested as they attempted to transfer the stolen merchandise from a van to a residence. A search warrant later revealed approximately $250,000 in stolen property inside the residence. Detectives had identified a majority of the property, but are still seeking clues on victims form other law enforcement agencies and the public.

All suspects, seven adults and one juvenile, are currently in custody in the Orange County Jail with bails ranging from $100,000 to $200,000. On August 30, 1999, the Orange County District Attorney's Office filed felony counts of burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary and receiving stolen property.

The suspects have been identified as Salvador Benitez, age 26, Leon Pedro, age 18, Rodolfo Romero, age 21, Antonio Gonzalez, age 27, Samuel Flores, age 27, Jorge Navarro, age 23, Carlos Ramirez, age 23, and a seventeen year old juvenile.

For more information, you may contact, Detectives D. Evans or C. Brazzill, Burglary-Auto Theft Division at 213-485-2527.

For Release 4:00 pm PST
September 10, 1999