An organized crime ring that targeted Apple Stores nationwide struck shops in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine, police said Tuesday.
Four Chicago residents are suspected of the thefts from Apple Stores in the three cities, as well as a Microsoft store in Mission Viejo, according to Torrance Police Sgt. Robert Watt. Apple has retail outlets at South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island and the Irvine Spectrum.
Some 17 total thefts took place across Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Torrance police arrested Ausra Bauzinskaite, 34, Adeliya Nassybullina, 30, Lukasz Karasinski, 37, and Przemyslaw Skiba, 31, after a four-month investigation, according to the Torrance Police Department.
The suspects also are tied to thefts in Colorado, Washington and Florida, police said.
The men would choose merchandise in the store and the women would conceal the items under oversized dresses and overcoats, leaving without paying for the goods, police allege.
They would then try to send the items out of state, according to police.
Police said the suspects identified themselves as a gypsy family from Chicago, originally from Poland, and that they admitted to stealing in order to pay off $2 million in debt.
Investigators estimate that since 2009 the family stole $3 million in property from stores that include PetSmart, Apple, Best Buy and Costco. More than $20,000 in Apple products has been recovered, police said.
All face multiple counts of conspiracy to commit commercial burglary and grand theft. Police continue to look for additional victims.