DETROIT (FOX 2) - Arrests were made in two Michigan-wide criminal investigations into organized retail theft, including charges being submitted against multiple people in connection with high-end burglaries that have victimized some families in metro Detroit.
In total, six people were arrested; three for operating an alleged criminal enterprise for breaking into affluent homes in Oakland County, and three for conducting a criminal enterprise by raiding local makeup and clothing stores in Southeast Michigan.
Both criminal operations have resulted in millions of dollars in merchandise and personal belongings being stolen, the state attorney general said Monday, and have been part of major investigations led by the department's organized retail crime unit.
"We will be seeking orders for full restitution for these victimized businesses," said Dana Nessel in Detroit.
Reports of transnational crimes targeting affluent homes while their owners are away have grown in recent months across the U.S. Oakland County has been home to dozens of alleged break-ins.
According to the county sheriff, the suspects are from Chile and use sophisticated technology to bypass security systems that high-end homes use. The suspects typically arrive as temporary residents who potentially overstay their visas.
The problem has gotten bad enough to spur the creation of a taskforce with more than 30 law enforcement agencies.
The suspects charged by the state attorney general are currently being held in Indiana for similar crimes and have yet to be arraigned in Michigan. Nessel said the alleged break-ins happened in February this year, with the three suspects arriving on flights from Los Angeles.
Suspects include Ignacio Ruiz-Saldias, 29 (left), Jeremy Martinez, 19, and Tamara Ruiz-Saldias. Mug shots via Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Indiana.
They were charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and several second-degree home invasion counts. Nessel noted they are not the only group sought by police and there are other gangs that have yet to be caught.
- Jeremy Martinez, 19, Chilean National, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; and Eight counts of Second-Degree Home Invasion, a 15-year felony.
- Ignacio Ruiz-Saldias, 29, Chilean National, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; and Eight counts of Second-Degree Home Invasion, a 15-year felony.
- Tamara Ruiz-Saldias, 36, Chilean National, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; and Eight counts of Second-Degree Home Invasion, a 15-year felony
The other three suspects the attorney general announced had been arrested had targeted Lululemon and Ulta retail stores in Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Clinton Township, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Grosse Pointe, Novi, Rochester Hills, Canton, Northville, Warren, and Shelby Township.
Close to $200,000 in merchandise has been stolen since December 2022.
Their scheme involved small organized groups entering a store, grabbing as much product as they can carry, then walking out the front door into a vehicle waiting to drive away. From there, the stolen products are resold to customers or sent in bulk to fencing operations.
The suspects include:
- Loreece Cross, 34, of Detroit, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; Four counts of First-Degree Retail Fraud, a 5-year felony; and One count of Second-Degree Retail Fraud, a 1-year misdemeanor.
- Cardiae Davis, 20, of Detroit, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; and Seven counts of Organized Retail Crime, a 5-year felony.
- Samira Smith, 20, of Detroit, One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony; and Seven counts of First-Degree Retail Fraud, a 5-year felony.
The schemes have led to dangerous police pursuits and the public being trampled by fleeing suspects, in addition to more than a billion dollars in merchandise being stolen from Michigan retail stores a year.
It's the eighth case at Nessel's organized retail crime unit has brought charges in this year and more cases are expected in the future.
In another prosecuted case announced last week, an Ann Arbor man was charged with dispatching teams of thieves to rob retail stores.