Police in California have arrested 40 suspects and recovered over $50 million in stolen merchandise following a statewide enforcement operation targeting one criminal organization.
The arrests were made following a 14-month statewide enforcement operation conducted by the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force and investigators from the patrol’s Cargo Theft Interdiction Program. The operation resulted in the recovery of 20 stolen trailers along with the seizure of several vehicles; multiple firearms, including ghost guns; over $550,000; and 13 gold bars.
Since March 2022, the California Highway Patrol conducted over 50 separate targeted operations involving multiple surveillance teams and undercover officers. Over that time, officials served serval search warrants which led to the arrests.
“This team has worked tirelessly to unravel this complex case,” CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee said in a statement. “I continue to be impressed by the dedication and commitment put forth daily by our officers and investigators. Their efforts help make California a safer place to live and work.”
Those arrested are facing multiple felony charges including conspiracy to commit grand theft, grand theft of cargo, vehicle theft and identity theft. Officials say they expect the operation to continue for several more months.
The $50 million in recovered merchandise may just be the tip of the iceberg. Officials believe the suspects could be responsible for the theft of more than 200 cargo loads valued at over $150 million. According to police, major retailers are among the victims of the thefts being investigated.
Gov. Gavin Newsom applauded the collaborative effort and emphasized the importance of operations such as this.
“This large-scale enforcement operation is part of CHP’s everyday work to keep our residents, communities and businesses safe,” Newsom said in a statement. “I’m grateful for all the men and women who helped shut down this criminal operation and get dangerous firearms and stolen merchandise off our streets.”
Newsom says his administration “continues to prioritize combating organized retail theft” across the state, adding that over the past year he has “invested more than $241.4 million to bolster law enforcement efforts to address organized retail theft and other crimes, and support affected businesses.”
According to data from CargoNet, a Jersey City, N.J.-based data- and information-sharing company working with carriers and law enforcement to combat cargo theft, there were 1778 reported cases of cargo theft last year. The total value of those thefts is estimated to be over $223 million. California was the number one state – followed by Texas and Florida – for reported theft events in 2022, seeing an increase of 41% from the year prior.
Victims of cargo theft in California are encouraged to file a Cargo Theft Loss Report online with the CHP. LL