Guilty pleas in perfume thefts as Ventura County authorities take action on retail crime
Ventura County prosecutors announced guilty pleas in a retail theft case on Jan. 14, a week after sheriff’s deputies in the county arrested two brothers in connection with a separate case of theft from department stores.
Each case involved alleged six-figure losses. The arrests and guilty pleas come on the heels of reported increases in commercial burglaries in 2021 in jurisdictions across the tri-county region, including those policed by the sheriff’s departments of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Areonah Walker, 18, of Riverside, and Terrion Phillips, 18, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to eight felony charges after they stole merchandise and used “booster bags” designed to “avoid security detection” at beauty stores, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office said in a Jan. 14 news release.
On Nov. 27, Walker and Phillips stole 46 bottles of perfume at the Ulta Beauty store in Oxnard. They also stole 33 bottles of perfume from Ulta Beauty in Camarillo. They were arrested after those thefts in a vehicle driven by Phillips, “who was driving at dangerous speeds during heavy holiday traffic,” prosecutors said.
Investigators later connected Walker to thefts that occurred in late October at Ulta Beauty stores in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks and at a Sephora store in Thousand Oaks.
The total value of items stolen from Ulta was more than $27,000, and items stolen from the beauty retailer Sephora were valued at more than $12,000, the district attorney’s office said.
Walker pleaded guilty to five counts of felony grand theft, including the thefts committed in October. Phillips pled guilty to two counts of felony grand theft and one felony count of evading a police officer.
According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Walker is also being investigated for allegedly participating in 19 organized retail thefts in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside counties, amounting to losses of more than $150,000.
Prosecutors could not consolidate those cases with the Ventura County ones because “a cross-jurisdictional law allowing the office to do so expired on June 30, 2021,” the district attorney’s office said. Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, recently introduced legislation that would give county district attorneys new authority to prosecute organized retail theft and sale of stolen property that crosses into their jurisdictions.
Walker and Phillips are scheduled to be sentenced in Ventura County Superior Court in February. Each count is punishable by up to three years in county jail, according to the district attorney’s office.
Earlier in January, two brothers from Los Angeles were arrested in connection with alleged organized retail thefts in Ventura County of jewelry valued at more than $21,500.
Vardan Gevorgyan, 30, of North Hollywood, and Raphael Gevorgyan, 37, of Van Nuys, were arrested Jan. 7 in Los Angeles by Ventura County sheriff’s deputies and booked into the Ventura County jail on suspicion of two counts of grand theft.
They are suspects in a series of thefts from seven different department store locations in Southern California, including one in Moorpark and one in Simi Valley, with losses totaling more than $124,000, according to a Jan. 12 news release from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department release described the case as “an ongoing organized retail theft spree throughout Southern California, over the past several months.”
On Nov. 16, patrol deputies from the Moorpark sheriff’s station responded to a reported jewelry theft at an area department store. “Deputies determined that a lone suspect disabled a security cable that was affixed to a large jewelry display case and carried the entire display case out of the store and into an awaiting vehicle that was parked directly in front of the exit doors,” the Sheriff’s Department said. Store management estimated jewelry in the display case to be worth more than $21,500.
Sheriff’s detectives believe the person who removed the jewelry case was Vardan Gevorgyan, working in conjunction with his brother. They also believe the brothers are responsible for similar thefts at other locations of the same department store, including one in Simi Valley.
Bail has been set at $75,000 for each of the brothers, the Sheriff’s Department stated.