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East Bay retail theft bust reveals sophisticated operation being run from Oakland home

Agents uncover sophisticated retail theft operation in East Bay
Agents uncover sophisticated retail theft operation in East Bay 03:32

ALAMEDA – On Wednesday, Alameda police announced an arrest at a retail theft fencing operation in the East Bay, containing more than $75,000 worth of stolen goods.

Police tracked the stolen merchandise to a home in Oakland, but the investigation that led to that discovery started at an Old Navy store in Alameda.

Authorities are not revealing the location of the home, but Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi said the stolen merchandise was arranged as if it was on display for shoppers.

Items recovered from a home in Oakland that was linked to a sophisticated retail theft ring that stole clothing and other goods from stores in Alameda and other cities. CBS

"Much of the loss items still had tags on it. They were on hangers," Joshi told CBS News Bay Area. "The operation, when I say it was similar to any other retail store, there were specific locations at this residence where specific items were categorized and being stored."

Aside from $10,000 in cash and several vehicles, officers recovered eight truckloads of stolen merchandise, much of it clothing.

Police caught wind of the operation after a Feb. 9 mass shoplifting at the Old Navy store in Alameda's South Shore Shopping Center.

The store's security team spotted a pattern involving other thefts at stores in the center and was able to help police identify individuals involved and the location of their drop-off point.

"We began to learn that loss from retailers outside of Alameda, in other cities, was being brought to that location, as well," said Joshi. "So, that further led us to believe that there was a fencing operation where loss from throughout the region was coming to."

As seen on the nightly news, retail theft has grown rapidly in recent years. 

At a recent press conference announcing new prevention initiatives, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said it is a mistake to think that it's just being committed by people in need.

"Let me be clear.  This is not about one-off thefts from stores," he said. "It's not about the occasional smash-and-grab at your local big-box store. This is about a multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise.  Criminal schemes that are complex, orchestrated and incredibly organized." 

For example, Bonta recently announced the arrest of Michelle Mack, a woman who is accused of running an $8 million theft ring throughout California out of her San Diego mansion.

Mack allegedly dispatched women around the state to steal beauty products from Ulta and Sephora stores, selling them from an online shopping site.

The fencing operation in Oakland wasn't quite on that level, but then again, Joshi said they're still not sure how far it may reach.

"I'll tell you this...we're not stopping here," he said. "We want to go as high up as we can to figure out who all is involved, where else this is occurring, what are the linkages?"

Officials said the thieves are organized so prevention needs to be organized as well. They said law enforcement, the business community, and the public must work together to fight a crime that is costing everyone a lot of money and putting people at risk.

The Attorney General's office has set up a portal on their website for the public to share any information they may have about retail theft operations. The portal can be found by visiting

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