A four-month investigation into a retail theft ring that targeted businesses in four states led authorities to arrest four people who described themselves as a "gypsy family" from Chicago that was attempting to pay off a debt.
The group is behind an estimated $3 million in property theft from retail stores, including Apple, Best Buy, Costco, Microsoft, PetSmart, Sams Club, Sports Authority and Wal-Mart since 2009, according to the Torrance Police Department. The thieves -- they often hid items in oversized clothes then mailed the property to out-of-state locations -- told investigators they took the merchandise to pay a $2 million family debt incurred years earlier.
"At first look, the thefts appeared as singular crimes that occur every day to the retail industry, but when thoroughly analyzed, investigators were able to uncover the magnitude of the crimes being committed by this group," Torrance police said in a statement. "Investigators are optimistic that this arrest will lead to additional evidence in this ongoing investigation."
The four suspects were arrested Thursday when they were located in Hawthorne. The subjects had just arrived in Southern California from Chicago for a court appearance in Santa Monica that stemmed from an earlier retail theft arrest.
During a surveillance operation, the suspects took items from Apple stores and attempted to mail the property out of the state, according to investigators. More than $20,000 worth of Apple items was recovered during the surveillance operation, Torrance police said.
Police identified the suspects as Ausra Bauzinskaite, 34; Adeliya Nassybullina, 30; Lukasz Karasinski, 37; and Przemyslaw Skiba, 31, all of Chicago. The suspects will face charges involving multiple counts of conspiracy to commit commercial burglary and grand theft.
The four might be connected to 17 additional commercial burglaries in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to police. They are believed to be behind additional thefts in Colorado, Washington and Florida.
In addition to the local police departments investigating the thefts, the FBI is also reviewing the case to determine whether or not federal charges should be filed.