MANKATO — A pair of women accused of stealing hundreds of movies from Walmart stores across southern Minnesota were apparently working for an organized shoplifting ring with California connections.
Even though the two women were stopped and arrested within two hours after they allegedly stole about $5,000 in merchandise from Mankato’s Walmart on Sept. 26, most of what was taken wasn’t in the car they were in.
An affidavit requesting a search warrant filed in Blue Earth County District Court this week reveals what likely happened to the dozens of movies that were missing: They had been stuffed into Fed Ex packages and sent to addresses in a Los Angeles suburb.
At least three packages were sent to two addresses in Panorama City, Calif., as 59-year-old Noe Baldiva-Corral and 26-year-old Samantha Velez-Diaz were allegedly stealing hundreds of DVDs from Walmart stores in Worthington, Owatonna and Mankato last month, according to criminal complaints charging them with felony theft.
In all, they are suspected of stealing more than $100,000 in merchandise from Walmart stores in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Walmart security officers in Mankato had received a tip about the two women, and the methods they used to steal DVDs, before they arrived around midnight on a Monday. One of the suspects distracted an employee in the electronics area while the other filled an $80 suitcase, taken from the luggage area, with more than 200 DVDs, the complaints said.
Both women then left the store at the same time. When the woman with the stolen merchandise triggered the sensors at the doors, the other woman stopped and told responding employees it must have been her purchase that triggered the alarm.
Security officers, who had received reports of similar thefts at Owatonna and Worthington the day before, realized what had happened and called Mankato police. Surveillance video was used to identify the car the suspects left in. They were stopped and arrested near New Auburn by a state trooper about two hours later.