PHOENIX – Phoenix police arrested five family members accused of stealing more than $15,000 worth of clothing and other items from Valley stores.
Elizabeth Rodriguez-Alvarez, 48, daughters Terri Yvette Vargas, 25, and Lizzette Vargas, 27, son Mario Vargas, 28, and son-in-law Jose Alvarez-Burgos, 23, were arrested Friday after police served a search warrant at their Tolleson home.
Many stolen items were recovered during the search, including some that still had the sales tag and security device, according to Officer James Holmes with the Phoenix Police Department.
Holmes said the family was stealing goods from local retailers with the purpose of trading some for drugs and selling the rest through yard sales.
Neighbors say they family regularly held the yard sales on Saturdays and Sundays. "I noticed that, yeah, there were a couple of yard sales going on quite a bit around here," one neighbor tells 3TV.
Police said the suspects stole lingerie, clothing and other items from various stores around the Valley, including Victoria's Secret, Dillard's, Ulta, Express, Charlotte Russe and Aeropostale, between November and July.
"They would go in, and they would blatantly conceal items in the bag, and they'd still have the price tag and the security tag on it," says Officer Holmes. "And then they would leave."
Detectives learned the suspects would often distract the employees of the businesses in order to commit the thefts.
During one incident, Terri Vargas and Mario Vargas allegedly committed a theft at Arrowhead Mall. When they exited the mall, they were confronted by a security guard and police said Mario Vargas sprayed the guard with pepper spray as they escaped capture (see video above).
The suspects face charges including fraud schemes, illegal control of an enterprise, aggravated robbery, organized retail theft, trafficking in stolen property and assault.
Detectives said the same suspects also shoplifted items from Victoria's Secret stores in Flagstaff and Prescott. Those agencies are conducting their own investigations.