Shoplifting rings are on the rise as New Mexico approaches the vacation season
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Officials discovered many of the same perpetrators in a series of organized shoplifting operations. Now the prosecution is interfering to put them behind bars.
From a man who targeted Target dozen of times to a woman’s penchant for the Kohl’s punch, thousands of dollars in goods are stolen from the same people, and things are only expected to get worse when we’re going into the Christmas shopping season. It has gotten so bad that state officials are getting involved.
“There was a huge problem with dangerous criminals posing as shoplifters,” said Hector Balderas, New Mexico attorney general. “These cases fall through the cracks.”
A new case taken over by the AG’s office – Charmaine Sanchez, 35, who has faced 11 shoplifting charges in the past three months. Officials say it is an organized retail crime, adding to an already long criminal history outside of shoplifting.
“We really have built a unit of retail partnerships, prosecutors and officials at the state and local and federal levels to really target the worst of the worst offenders who aren’t just shoplifters,” Balderas said. “These are dangerous individuals who commit other crimes, and more importantly, they go to multiple counties and are evading law enforcement and prosecution at an alarming rate.”
One of the other arrest warrants issued in the same crime ring is Gabriel “Money” Herrera, with an even longer criminal history than Sanchez. Officials post various Kohls on the subway, saying they always have a getaway driver with a rotating row of cars and no known jobs or sources of income outside of the crime ring.
Balderas says if other cases – like these retail rings – find scammers with a history of more serious crimes, the case will escalate to reach his office rather than just local police. This is one of the reasons they created the unit specifically for Retail Organized Crime.
“We created the unit about a year and a half ago where we prosecutors work with investigators and we actually work with staff and other customers,” said Balderas. “We have had great results by addressing the problem and identifying and investigating the worst of the worst offenders.”
Balderas believes that these cases of organized retail crime could get worse, especially in large retail stores, when we go on vacation. He asks customers to be extra vigilant about what they can see.
“This is not your run-of-the-mill shoplifting. These are dangerous individuals who target and use violence and fraudulent means to really harm our community, so they deserve to be held accountable, ”Balderas said. “Even families who are innocent and are only there to buy goods and services really need to be more risk-conscious and aware.”
The shoplifting charge is just one of many criminal cases Sanchez and Herrera have been involved in, including drug trafficking, armed robbery and car theft. Arrest warrants were issued for Sanchez and Herrera on Friday, but arrests have not yet been made.