COSTA MESA, Calif. — A special task force has arrested a woman suspected of stealing well over $300,000 worth of high-end merchandise from stores in Southern California, authorities said Wednesday.
The woman, identified as 38-year-old Ekatarina Zharkova, was arrested in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa, where authorities searched a home “packed wall to wall in every room” with bags and clothing from brands like Gucci, Prada and Jimmy Choo, according to California Highway Patrol.
Zharkova was targeted by CHP’s Retail Crime Task Force, a law enforcement group that Gov. Gavin Newsom has touted in recent weeks as the state deals with a spate of smash-and-grab or “flash mob” thefts at retail stores.
Investigators say Zharkova took a different tact, working alone and using tools to evade theft-detection monitors. CHP says that “on several occasions” she was directly observed by investigators stealing from the stores.
“Investigators watched her enter a Nordstrom Rack store where she was observed filling a shopping cart with high-end items,” CHP wrote in a news release, describing the day Zharkova was finally taken into custody.
“She placed a coat over the shopping cart to cover the merchandise, and then used a sensor defeating device to remove security sensors before exiting the store with over $3,500 of stolen merchandise. Zharkova returned to her car where she was immediately arrested.”
The task force served a search warrant at the woman’s home, where officers say they found 2,333 stolen items worth nearly $330,000. “The merchandise was located with the store tags still in place and several of the items had the disabled security sensors still affixed,” CHP wrote.
Authorities said that after disabling security sensors, Zharkova sold items online.
She was booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of grand theft, authorities said. “The investigation is ongoing to identify any additional victims and locations where the stolen merchandise was sold,” CHP said.
Industry representatives helped the agency inventory all the stolen goods.