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When shoplifters make it into the news, it’s usually because they were caught stealing a sweater or maybe even a TV. Most shoplifters don’t get accused of shoplifting $20 million worth of merchandise, but that’s exactly what’s happened in San Diego County. According to an unsealed indictment in San Diego federal court, a shoplifting ring has been operating around the county and the country for the last decade. The highly organized crew has been accused of stealing $20 million in designer merchandise, which was then resold in Mexico.

The Operation

Shoplifters might normally work on their own, but this was a highly organized operation that involved several key players, according to reports. Tijuana vendors were at the top of the organization. They chose which items they wanted and deployed the shoplifters to malls in San Diego County. The shoplifters also hit malls in Washington, Oregon, Maryland, and Illinois.

They are accused of stealing a variety of items, including Louis Vuitton Shoes and lingerie from Victoria’s Secret.

They didn’t just steal the items and go on their way, according to investigators. They have also been accused of resorting to acts of violence to prevent being taken into custody. Those violent acts included breaking the arm of a loss prevention officer and knocking down a stroller with an infant inside of it. Some members of the ring have been charged with taking part in violent acts.

The Takedown

It took more than 250 law enforcement officers to bring the ring down. They were deployed all over San Diego County with warrants in hand. They arrested their suspects, and then the grand jury handed out indictments. Twenty-two people were indicted in all. While most of them made it to jail, some are fugitives.

Law enforcement officials didn’t just find their suspects. They also seized around $30,000 in cash and trash bags that contained new clothing. They even found piles of Louis Vuitton shoes that were ready to go to Mexico for resale.

How Did They Do It?

It’s hard to understand how this outfit managed to steal so many items over so many years. These weren’t your run-of-the-mill grab and run shoplifters. They were much more sophisticated.

Team leaders scouted stores and directed the shoplifters with hand signals and cell phones. Blockers shielded the shoplifters and distracted store employees. Mules actually picked up the items and threw them into metallic-lined bags. The bags prevented security alarms from going off. These sophisticated methods allowed them to steal thousands of dollars in merchandise in a single trip.

What to Do if You’re Accused of Shoplifting

If you get picked up for theft, don’t try to talk your way out of it. Contact an attorney immediately so you will get the protection and representation you need. You might want to explain things to the officer, but that is a mistake. Let your San Diego defense attorney take the lead and protect your interests. Your attorney should be the first person you speak to after your arrest.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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