Ekaterina Zharkova, a 38-year-old southern California woman, was arrested in Costa Mesa last week after police said she shoplifted more than $300,000 in merchandise from high-end retailers across the region.
In a press release issued Thursday, the California Highway Patrol said Zharkova is suspected of stealing thousands of dollars in clothes and accessories from several stores across a period of weeks.
Zharkova was booked in the Orange County Jail “on suspicion” of grand theft on Nov. 23, and was released two days later on Thanksgiving, inmate records show. She was not formally charged, as the District Attorney’s Office is still reviewing the evidence, local outlets reported.
Police: Ekaterina Zharkova Shoplifted $300K in Merchandise
According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), detectives with the Organized Retail Crime Task Force claimed they saw Zharkova steal “multiple times and from different stores,” including such high-end retailers as Gucci, Prada, Ramy Brook, Dodo Bar and Jimmy Choo.
Detectives said they took Zharkova into custody on Nov. 23, after following her into a Nordstrom Rack at the Metro Pointe at South Coast Mall and allegedly observing her steal $3,500 worth of merchandise.
Investigators believe the 38-year-old was storing stolen goods in her home and reselling them online. CHP released a photo showing what they claim is a stockpile of shoplifted merchandise, uncovered while executing a search warrant at Zharkova’s Costa Mesa home, after her arrest.
Police said they found “stolen merchandise packed wall to wall in every room” of the home. In total, authorities said they logged more than 2,300 items valued at $328,683 in Zharkova’s house — mostly clothing and hats, according to the press release.
Detectives said they are working with affected retailers to inventory and return the shoplifted items.
No charges appear to have been filed against Zharkova since her arrest. Orange County Jail records show she was released two days after her arrest on $0 bond. Under California law, police can only detain a suspect who has not been charged for 48 hours before releasing them.
KTLA reported last week that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was still reviewing the case and determining whether to charge the 38-year-old with grand theft. Prosecutors have not made — or at least have not announced — a decision as of Monday.
Under California criminal law, grand theft involves the stealing of property valued at $950 or more. It can be prosecuted either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the alleged theft.
Misdemeanor grand theft carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines. Felony grand theft can carry up to three years behind bars and as much as $10,000 in fines.
California Cracks Down on Retail Theft
The news of Zharkova’s arrest comes after multiple high-profile instances of retail theft in California.
In November, several stores in the San Francisco Bay Area were targeted in what police have called organized “smash and grabs.” Crowds of masked thieves descended on retailers to shoplift merchandise and maximize confusion, allowing for an easy getaway.
More recently, 14 were arrested in a similar case in Los Angeles, hundreds of miles south. The apparent rise in organized shoplifting rings have led to calls from state prosecutors and retailers for harsher penalties for convicted thieves.
The allegations against Ekaterina Zharkova do not appear to be linked to the smash-and-grab group in L.A. and the Bay Area.