Newport Beach business plants Apple AirTags in merchandise, nabs suspected thief

David González Image
Friday, December 1, 2023
OC business plants AirTags in merchandise, nabs suspected thief
A Newport Beach plant business took matters into their own hands to nab a repeat thief by hiding Apple AirTags inside their merchandise. It paid off.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A Newport Beach nursery used AirTag trackers to catch an alleged thief accused of stealing thousands of dollars in goods over several weeks.

Surveillance footage from Roger's Gardens on Oct. 12 captured footage of the suspect filling up a shopping cart with potted plants and trees, loading them into a truck and driving off.

"We have security cameras all over the store including our parking lot," said Michael Sullivan, operations manager for Roger's Garden.

The nursery was hit two more times over next the several weeks.

"We're frustrated. We're losing things," Sullivan said. "He's taking a large fountain that's about 150 pounds, pots that are $300 each - large, expensive things."

He said Newport Beach police increased patrols but had no luck capturing the suspect.

Sullivan said on Nov. 16, the alleged thief struck again getting away with more items, including a bench.

This time, Sullivan said he took matters into his own hands and planted Apple AirTags in a number of items, with the hopes the suspect would come back.

"I saw one of the AirTags had moved to a location in Irvine, so I had the address at that point. I took a screenshot of it and I sent it to the detectives at 2 in the morning," he said.

Police went to the address and discovered what they called, "a sanctuary of stolen greenery.'"

"Every single thing in his front yard was like our pots, our fountain, our plants. The entire front yard. A bench from out front. The entire front yard was - it was basically decorated with our stuff that we were missing," Sullivan said.

Authorities recovered over $8,000 worth of items. The suspect was arrested and faces four felony grand theft charges.

Roger's Gardens hopes this arrest sends a message that any kind of theft will not be tolerated.

"There seems to be a kind of apathy with a lot of retailers where they sort of like let it happen or look the other way or that's a cost of doing business," Sullivan said. "We disagree with that approach. We are going after anyone that takes something from us."