SLO police had lead role investigating series of Apple store thefts across California

The San Luis Obispo Police Department had a lead role investigating the massive series of Apple store thefts across California that led to eight arrests, and nine warrants issued, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday.

The thefts totaled more than $1 million in property stolen and took place across 19 counties as far south as San Diego and as far north as Butte, according to a news release.

Becerra has filed charges for conspiracy to commit grand theft against 17 suspects in Fresno, Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

The thefts involved multiple hooded suspects entering Apple stores, grabbing display items and fleeing. Caught on surveillance video, the thefts occurred quickly, in some cases netting more than $20,000 in merchandise in a matter of seconds, according to police logs.

Seven of the suspects have been booked in the Alameda County jail, with the eighth in custody in Sonoma County, according to the news release. Arrest warrants are issued for the remaining nine.

San Luis Obispo’s lead role in the investigation was due to Detective Eric Vitale. He contacted the Department of Justice and “got the ball rolling” on connecting the different cases, SLO police Lt. John Bledsoe said.

“Vitale headed the spear of the investigation,” Bledsoe said.

Said SLO police spokesman Capt. Chris Staley: “My understanding is it was an organized gang group, and since (Vitale) was the one with the most information, he led the charge with the Attorney General to pursue all the different warrants that were served yesterday.”

“It was a good case they put together. It was a lot of work,” Staley said.

SLO police led the investigation along with the Oakland Police Department, with further assistance from law enforcement agencies in each of the 19 involved counties, the news release said. The seven Alameda suspects were arrested in Oakland, Sgt. Ray Kelly told SFGate on Tuesday.

“San Luis Obispo and Oakland police departments have provided incredible assistance on the investigation,” said a state Department of Justice spokesperson.

Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF
Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune