Suspects Plead Not Guilty in $20 Million Retail Theft Ring

A massive retail theft ring transported more than $20 million worth of high-end, stolen merchandise to Mexico

The members of a busted international theft ring that operated here in San Diego pleaded not guilty to several charges in federal court Thursday.

They face charges related to a massive retail theft ring that robbed more than $20 million worth of high-end merchandise from shopping malls across the country and sold the contraband in Tijuana.

Agents arrested 12 suspects Wednesday while searching several homes in Lemon Grove, Chula Vista and San Diego. Currently, eight suspects connected to the ring remain outstanding. Nine of the defendants in custody were arraigned in court.

At the arraignment, six of the defendants were detained and three were granted bond.

Federal authorities announced a multi-year investigation that led to the discovery of a well-organized and violent group of thieves, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

More than 250 officials from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies worked to arrest suspects from the theft ring.

In addition to stealing high-end goods, the criminal ring intimidated witnesses, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. That included throwing a rock at a window to try to intimidate a witness, and knocking over a baby in a stroller. They also grabbed a security guard by the neck in National City's Plaza Bonita.

The next court appearance is set for Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 9 a.m.

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