AG: 17 arrested in Home Depot shoplifting operation

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An operation targeting those who steal from hardware stores in Albuquerque resulted in more than a dozen arrests during the first weekend of February.

The two-day operation, led by the new Retail Organized Crime Task Force, had undercover and uniformed officers near Home Depot stores as employees and security relayed to police information on current flights.

Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office said in a statement that the operation targets “dangerous criminals who continue to disrupt families in our communities.”

“New Mexico families deserve safe shopping,” Balderas said in the statement.

There were 17 arrests made during the operation, including eight felony arrests and six misdemeanor or misdemeanor arrests. Court records show they also recovered three stolen vehicles and authorized felony and misdemeanor arrests.

Many of those arrested had faced similar charges in the past and at least two of the men arrested were found with fentanyl. Caught shoplifters were attempting to steal between $39 and $1,500 worth of merchandise.

One of the men arrested, according to court records, had previously fired a gun at the security of a Home Depot on Eubank. One man told police he was shoplifting because he needed the cash for the casino and another said he planned to sell the stolen tools for a third of the price.

Some of those arrested worked in pairs.

Luis Lara-Valdez, 25, and Felicia Romero, 24, are both charged with shoplifting between $500 and $2,500, resisting, evading or obstructing an officer and conspiracy.

On Feb. 5 at around 6:45 p.m., employees at The Home Depot near Coors and Alameda NW alerted police that Lara-Valdez was filling a shopping cart with $1,200 worth of copper pipe, court records show. Romero drove a truck into the back of the store as Lara-Valdez headed for the back exit.

Lara-Valdez attempted to ram the fire escape with the cart but failed to get out and set off the alarm. At that time, he and Romero attempted to flee from the officers but were arrested.

Lara-Valdez told police he was not going to shoplift anything and planned to pay for the items. He said he decided to run when people approached him “aggressively”.

Although not documented in a criminal complaint, the AG’s office said in a statement that Valdez was wearing a body armor when he was arrested and a gun was found in the truck.

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