By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Continued investigation into allegations of organized retail theft in Centralia over the weekend revealed an initial estimate of a theft of about $869 in alcohol to likely be far below the mark, according the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office.
“This is likely to get much bigger,” said Deputy Prosecutor Joel DeFazio Tuesday.
Suspects have now been tied to well over $1,000 in alcohol thefts from two Centralia stores in addition to clothes allegedly stolen from numerous retail stores, DeFazio told the court.
The five suspects, all from Portland, are Isiah R. Campbell, 20, Johvanee A. Hall, 21, Latia D. McDaniel, 25, Zariah Y. Torregano, 20, and Jovahntea R. Hall, 21. They were arrested Sunday after police responded to a report of the theft of hundreds of dollars in liquor and food from the Centralia Safeway in the 1100 block of Harrison Avenue. They were arrested by the Washington State Patrol after leaving the area, and were reportedly caught on surveillance footage.
They made their first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court Monday where they were not formally charged but ordered held on probable cause for another day while investigators executed a search warrant.
They were back in court Tuesday, all charged with second-degree organized retail theft, a class C felony.
DeFazio gave the court an update on the case Tuesday.
“The vehicle was searched,” he said. “The investigation is still ongoing.”
Before ruling on a bail amount for the five suspects, Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee asked DeFazio to elaborate on the additional evidence discovered since the five defendants were arrested.
DeFazio reported that a search warrant of the suspects’ vehicle revealed $1,000 pre-tax in stolen liquor from Centralia’s Safeway and another $180 pre-tax in alcohol stolen from Rite Aid. The vehicle also contained clothing suspected to be stolen from 10 retail stores, many of them in the same general area of the Centralia Factory Outlets.
The officer in charge of the investigation is working to track all of the merchandise back to the stores, he said.
“What started out as a liquor theft from a local Safeway might turn out to be a lot more,” DeFazio said, noting that charges could be upgraded to retail theft with special circumstances, depending on the outcome of the investigation.
With that in mind, he asked for Toynbee to maintain the $10,000 bail for each defendant set the previous day by Superior Court Judge James Lawler.
Defense attorney Rachael Tiller, representing the defendants for their initial hearing, asked for unsecured bail, asking Toynbee not to consider speculation on further charges. She noted that all of the defendants were related and that family members planned to help them return to court if released.
Toynbee granted Tiller’s request and allowed some of the defendants to return to their home city of Portland, while others plan to live with family in Tacoma while the case is ongoing.