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Four arrested, charged for alleged crime spree at jewelry stores

REGION — Four suspects who allegedly carried out a string of robberies and burglaries at high-end jewelry stores, resulting in more than $1.5 million in losses to the businesses, have been arrested and charged in San Diego County.

The alleged crimes happened in April and May at stores in San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and Kern counties, according to the California Attorney General’s Office.

At a Friday morning news conference, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said there were 21 separate thefts, most of which occurred in San Diego County.

“These are not victimless crimes,’’ Bonta said. “These thefts hurt businesses, small and large alike, and they pose a danger to workers and to the public.’’

Bonta said the thieves would often pose as customers, ask to see specific pieces of jewelry, then grab the items and run. Some stores were burglarized after hours.

Stores that were hit include Banter, KAY Jewelers, Zales, Marc Jacobs and JCPenney, among others.

While Bonta did not speak to the specific locations of each store, the case was investigated jointly by the San Diego Police Department, Carlsbad Police Department, Escondido Police Department, El Cajon Police Department, National City Police Department, Chula Vista Police Department, Bakersfield Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and California Department of Justice Organized Retail Crime Task Force.

Bonta said the four suspects arrested this week are believed to all the people involved in this particular operation. Charges filed this week include felony counts of organized retail theft, robbery, burglary and grand theft.

“The Organized Theft Groups profiting from these crimes have grown larger, become more violent and continue to have an adverse and destructive effect on society,’’ said Christopher Davis, acting special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations San Diego. “These criminals hurt our communities by impacting local businesses and our general sense of safety.’’

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