4 arrested after alleged organized distraction thefts at shopping centers in Irvine, police say

KABC logo
Thursday, March 28, 2024
4 arrested on suspicion of distraction theft at Irvine shopping center
Police announced the arrests of four people in connection with a distraction theft at an Irvine shopping center.

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Police on Wednesday announced the arrests of four people in connection with a distraction theft at an Irvine shopping center.

The suspects in custody were identified as: Maria Beltran, 52, of North Hollywood; Thonson Yeamier Gomezbarreto, 32, of North Hollywood; Laidy Viviana Moraleon, 36, of Los Angeles; and William Alberto Melomontenegro, 38, of Los Angeles.

Officers were conducting surveillance in shopping centers March 22 due to recent organized distraction thefts, the Irvine Police Department said in a statement.

An officer saw two men and two women walk to a sedan parked near the back of a HomeGoods store.

"The group was walking briskly and kept looking over their shoulder as if they were making sure nobody was following them," the statement said. "One of the males began to manipulate the rear temporary license plate of the vehicle by folding it up so it was not readable."

According to the news release, police followed the vehicle to the Irvine Spectrum where they stopped. Officers searched the vehicle and found a wallet that did not belong to any of the suspects, as well as a magnetic device used to decode credit card information, authorities said.

The owner of the wallet was identified and confirmed it was missing from her purse after shopping at HomeGoods, investigators said.

3 charged for allegedly stealing $310,000 in merchandise from luxury retailers in California

The suspects allegedly stole $310,000 worth of merchandise from stores such as Prada, Louis Vuitton and other high-end retailers during smash-and-grab thefts throughout California.

"Luckily, the suspects were not able to use her credit cards before being caught," the statement said.

The Police Department released surveillance video that allegedly shows the suspects inside HomeGoods unsuccessfully attempting to steal a wallet from another victim.

The four in custody were booked for burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, grand theft, and possession of identity theft material, according to the news release.