Phoenix police: 5 family members arrested in shoplifting case that may extend to other cities

IndustriesAssociated Press

Five members of a Phoenix-area family are accused of stealing more than $15,000 worth of lingerie and other clothing from retail stores, and authorities said the group also might have shoplifted in northern Arizona.

Some of the lingerie and other stolen items were traded for drugs, while others were sold at yard sales, Phoenix police said Monday.

Continue Reading Below

Arrested after police served a search warrant at their Tolleson home were Elizabeth Rodriguez-Alvarez, 48; her son Mario Vargas, 28; daughter Terri Yvette Vargas, 25; daughter Lizzette Vargas, 27; and son-in-law Jose Alvarez-Burgos, 23. They do not yet have attorneys, according to court documents.

Many stolen items were recovered during the search, including some still containing the sales tag and security device, Officer James Holmes said.

The suspects face various charges including fraud schemes, illegal control of an enterprise, aggravated robbery, organized retail theft, trafficking in stolen property and assault. But police said not all family members were charged with each alleged offense.

Police said the search warrant executed Friday followed a two-month investigation into thefts from stores such as Victoria's Secret and Ulta between November 2013 and last month.

The suspects often would distract the businesses' employees to commit the thefts, authorities said.

During one incident, Terri Vargas and Mario Vargas reportedly stole clothing from a store at Glendale's Arrowhead Mall and were confronted by a security guard outside. Police said Mario Vargas used pepper spray on the guard and then escaped to a car in the parking lot and fled.

The Phoenix Police Department's Business and Economic Stability Team launched an investigation into the family's activities in June. Officers monitored the family and made purchases from them at their yard sales, Holmes said.

Detectives said the same suspects are accused of shoplifting from Victoria's Secret stores in Flagstaff and Prescott, and those agencies are conducting their own investigations. It's not immediately clear if any family member shoplifted from other areas of Arizona, according to authorities.