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2 Men Plead Guilty In $1M Retail Theft Ring That Spanned 9 California Counties

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP/CBS13) — Two men have pleaded guilty for their role in an organized retail theft ring that stole about $1 million from stores across nine California counties, including Sacramento and Placer, officials said Friday.

Authorities said Anton Salaam, Marion Paul Tilley and two other suspects stole high-end jewelry from multiple JCPenney and Sam's Clubs stores across the state between September 2020 and February 2021. They then sold or exchanged the items.

The thefts were different from the "flash mob style smash-and-grab" robberies captured on video in California and other states last year, Attorney General Rob Bonta said.

The suspects in this case broke into the stores when they were closed and stole from the jewelry sections.

"Organized retail crime looks like a lot of things," Bonta said. He announced a similar widespread takedown last month.

The prosecutions came as some critics, including state lawmakers of both political parties, said the state should do more to combat retail theft. But a state Assembly committee this week defeated a bill supported by retailers that would have toughened a 2014 ballot measure that lowered penalties for thefts and other crimes.

Bonta and Gov. Gavin Newsom, both Democrats and both running for re-election this year, have said the state should better enforce existing laws. Bonta on Friday launched a new way for witnesses to report thefts online.

Newsom signed a law in 2018 that required the California Highway Patrol, working with the state Department of Justice, to create an Organized Retail Crime Task Force. The highway patrol said the task force has since participated in 1,031 investigations resulting in 449 arrests and the recovery of more than $21 million worth of merchandise.

In the most recent case, investigators recovered stolen jewelry from the suspects' homes. Salaam and Tilley were sentenced to 16 months in prison after pleading guilty to organized retail theft.

The locations of the thefts ranged from Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area to San Bernardino and Santa Clarita counties near Los Angeles. Also targeted were stores across the Central Valley, including those in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Placer, Sacramento and Tulare counties.

The other two suspects also face organized retail theft charges. One is awaiting arraignment in July on that charge and an additional charge of child endangerment for allegedly having an illegal assault weapon in the presence of her 9-year-old child.

The other suspect remains hospitalized for severe injuries following a crash while he being taken into custody by Bullhead, Arizona, police in January 2021. A $50,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest upon his release from treatment.

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