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Three Theft Ring Suspects Arrested, Released With Citations


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By Jorge Casuso

April 12, 2024 -- Three suspects believed to be part of an organized retail theft ring with gang connections were arrested Thursday for stealing more than $23,000 in merchandise from a Santa Monica beauty store last month.

The suspects from Los Angeles -- two of whom had prior arrests for gun possession, domestic violence and robbery -- were booked into Santa Monica jail and released with citations under LA County's zero-bail policy.

The burglary took place March 23 shortly before 4 a.m. when six suspects armed with sledgehammers broke through the front window of the Ulta Beauty store at 1234 Wilshire Boulevard, according to police.

"The suspects, all wearing hoodies and face masks, used the sledgehammers to break open glass display cases containing high end fragrances," said Lt. Erika Aklufi, the Police Department spokesperson.

The suspects -- who left the scene in two dark-colored vehicles -- were tracked to a location in South Los Angeles and ultimately identified after "an exhaustive and thorough investigation," Aklufi said.

On Thursday, SMPD detectives working with the LAPD Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) served a search warrant in the 1200 block of 90th Place in Los Angeles, according to police.

The warrant was served by a team comprised of SMPD SWAT, UAS, Patrol, Criminal Investigations Division personnel and LAPD’s ORCTF, police said.

The team recovered two firearms and merchandise from the Ulta burglary. Three suspects associated with the burglary were arrested and transported to the Santa Monica jail for booking.

"Based on evidence recovered during the warrant, detectives believe the individuals who burglarized the Santa Monica Ulta store are part of a larger organized retail theft crime ring that may have gang connections," Aklufi said.

Arrested for burglary were Caleed Jamari Mouton, 24; Eelayia Christine Walker, 21, and Mekhai Taveon Ray, 22. Mouton has prior arrests for gun possession and domestic violence, while Ray has prior arrests for robbery.

All three were released from custody with citations per the LA County bail schedule, police said.

The County's zero-bail protocol, which went into effect September 1, applies to non-violent felonies and misdemeanors, including nearly all theft offenses, other property crimes like vandalism and some serious crimes that are deemed non-violent.

SMPD officials attributed the "excellent outcome" of the investigation in large part to the Department's "strong partnership with LAPD and the Task Force."

"Detectives are confident the other three individuals responsible for the Ulta burglary will be arrested soon," Aklufi said.

The arrests come two months after four teenage suspects were arrested February 9 after trying to break into The Real Real Store, a luxury resale store on the 200 block of 26th Street ("Four Teens Arrested for Attempting to Burglarize Store," February 13, 2024).

Two months earlier, the same store had been robbed by four masked suspects who used hammers to smash multiple display cases before making off with more than $50,000 worth of brand-name purses ("Suspects Wanted in Smash-and-Grab Retail Robbery," December 5, 2023).

The suspects have not been arrested, according to police.

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