Crime ring gets shut down in Visalia

VISALIA, Calif.

Police are still looking for 24-year-old Samuel Woodland. He got away when officers pulled over a van full of all five suspects and thousands of dollars of stolen merchandise.

Kohl's surveillance photos obtained by Visalia Police -- show three of the suspects, Christina Rodriguez, Crystal Contreras and Vanessa Romero getting out of a blue Honda minivan.

Police say the women, along with Donald Franklin, seen in another surveillance photo wearing a striped shirt, were being watched by Kohl's employees Thursday as they stole hundreds of dollars in merchandise from the store. Kohl's called Visalia Police.

"Once these individuals left the store, the property crimes unit made a traffic stop on the vehicle," said Sgt. Gary Williams. "When they made a traffic stop on the vehicle, all the occupants fled."

Police arrested four of the suspects. The driver of the blue van got away. Inside the van, officers discovered stolen clothing plus games and movies from Kohl's.

Visalia Police are calling the group an organized crime ring who have been hitting stores up and down Mooney Boulevard over the last few weeks. Kohl's had told officers they had been watching the suspects for weeks.

Sgt. Gary Williams said, "I don't know how many times they've hit the stores, enough where these stores were aware that these individuals were coming in and things were coming up missing and where they had identified they were a problem and to watch them and contact us when they came into the store."

Sgt. Williams says the group would go into a store and separate so security would not know they were together. Once they took the merchandise, they would either sell it or go back to the store for a cash refund.

Irma Salazar owns #1 Sports Fan. She says the group went into her store to try to shoplift, right after they left Kohl's on Thursday.

Salazar said, "And then my stomach started hurting because I really felt that something was not right and as soon as I started seeing how they were acting what they were asking for I said something's not right and I told them they had to leave."

Police are still looking for 24-year-old Samuel Woodland. He's 6-1, 150 pounds from Visalia. Police say Woodland already has two other warrants out for his arrest, relating to drug charges in Santa Clara County.

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