A former employee at a Target store in Riverside and his friend are suspected of stealing roughly $100,000 worth of merchandise during a months-long scheme that allegedly involved illegal use of gift cards and unauthorized price reductions at the counter, authorities said.
The former clerk, Elias Ortega Hernandez, 23, of Moreno Valley, and Mandeep Chamdal, 34, of Perris were identified as alleged perpetrators of the embezzlement activity following an investigation by Riverside police detectives, in coordination with members of the Inland Empire Organized Retail Crime Association.
Hernandez and Chamdal were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of grand theft and embezzlement. Hernandez and Chamdal both posted $130,000 bonds and were released from the Robert Presley Detention Center on June 6 and June 14, respectively.
According to Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback, the suspects are accused of conspiring between January and May to steal a range of goods from the Target at 2755 Canyon Springs Parkway. Railsback alleged that Chamdal would shop for the items and bring them to Hernandez's counter, where he would supply her with gift cards he didn't purchase and would ring up merchandise at unrealistically low prices. In one instance, a $15 package of baby diapers was purchased for $2, according to Railsback.
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Chamdal allegedly took some of the unopened goods to swap meets, primarily in Wildomar, and resold them, he said. Store inspectors detected the illicit activity and alerted the police department.
Railsback said that when a search warrant was served at Chamdal's residence in the 2200 block of Jornada Drive, a large amount of the allegedly stolen merchandise was seized.
Neither suspect has documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County. The case is now under review by the District Attorney's Office.