Suspected Office Wallet Thief Nabbed

Irvine police arrest a suspect in a string of brazen, daytime office burglaries.

A man in casual business attire walks into an office. He leaves moments later with someone's wallet. The crime only takes a second, and before the victim even knows it's gone, fraudulent charges have been made on the card.

That's the M.O. in a string of at least 13 burglaries in Irvine office buildings, and possibly more countywide since 2009, said Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen.

Police say they now have a suspect in the case.

John Steven Gachupin, 47, was taken into custody Tuesday on suspicion of burglary. He was booked into Orange County Jail and is being held without bail on a parole hold.

"He'll walk into a multi-story office building, with suites or a business that has the whole floor," said Engen. "He dresses OK, kind of blends in."

"You just don't notice," Engen said. "When you walk into 10-11 story building, you don't know everybody walking around. When we've gone back to victims, they say, 'Oh yeah, I did see him around here.'"

After entering an office building, Gachupin would allegedly enter a cubicle or reach over a counter and take a wallet out of someone's purse, Engen said. He would discard the wallet and then use the credit card at a nearby store, "often purchasing a greeting card or other small item along with large-value gift card, which can be easily sold for cash," according to police.


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The entire process would sometimes take less than an hour, Engen said.

Detectives found their way to Gachupin after linking transactions on victims' credit cards to a pattern of questionable purchases in the Oceanside area, according to police.

"Further investigation into each of the transactions confirmed that gift cards being used in the Oceanside area were purchased with credit cards stolen from six different cities in Orange County and one from San Diego County," according to police.

Losses are estimated at "several thousand dollars," and additional burglary charges are expected in cities where the cards were used, Engen said.

Police recently released surveillance video in the case:

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