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San Jose Lululemon Looting, Other Bay Area Smash-and-Grabs Helping Fund Organized Crime Rings

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Among the wave of smash-and-grab robberies and looting around the Bay Area over the weekend, the Lululemon at San Jose's Santana Row was targeted Sunday night by a group that made off with over $40,000 in pricey exercise gear.

It was the same MO seen all over the Bay Area this weekend. San Jose police say these thefts are the work of organized crime rings.

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"One of the suspects that entered Lululemon had a visible gun in his waistband," said police spokesman Sgt. Christian Camarillo. "This is who we're dealing with. This isn't a crime of opportunity, it's very planned and organized. They are armed."

The merchandise stolen from these high-end robberies is sold on eBay, flea markets and other non-corporate marketplaces. In February of 2020, a KPIX 5 investigation found a vendor at the Laney College Swap Meet selling brand new, certified Lululemon at half-price.

Lululemon stores across the Bay Area have been hit by bands of thieves recently. One store in Santa Rosa had been robbed three times in four months in 2019. Organized retail crime task forces have made massive busts.

The merchandise from this weekend's hauls will end up in a variety of illicit settings, according to the retail industry.

"You're gonna see it in flea markets, you're gonna see it in online marketplaces, you're gonna see it - we've seen stores behind stores," said Rachel Michelin, President and CEO of the California Retailers Association. "So it might be a mini-mart in some place in the state and behind the wall is a whole other boutique of stolen goods where people can go in and purchase items. You'll see it on the street being sold, you'll see private sales."

Michelin says while some may call this a victimless crime, she says that is far from reality.

"This was being orchestrated by an organized crime ring. Not retail crime. Organized crime," said Michelin. "So when you talk about human trafficking and you talk about drug cartels - that's the area that we're in right now and retail theft is funding those really bad crimes happening not only throughout California, but our country."


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