A cart full of stolen Barbies and an arrest of a Moses Lake woman days before Christmas helped police uncover a shoplifting ring that officials said is responsible for stealing more than $70,000 in merchandise.
Nine stores in Kennewick in the Columbia Center mall area were targeted by three Moses Lake women, said Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin.
Thousands of pieces of suspected stolen merchandise was found when officers searched two Moses Lake homes this week, he said.
Marisol E. Ramirez, 25, was arrested after the Dec. 19 shoplifting incident at Toys R Us. And this week, Kennewick detectives, with help from U.S. marshals and Moses Lake police, arrested Tera A. Quarles, 28, and Maria S. Zarate, 26.
Piles of suspected stolen merchandise was seized from their homes, Lattin said. Investigators on Thursday still were processing the evidence, but estimate they had more than 2,000 pieces of clothing and other items valued up to $70,000.
In Kennewick, stores that were hit include Burlington Coat Factory, Abercrombie & Fitch, Claire's Boutique, Victoria Secret, Bath and Body Works, Children's Place, American Eagle, Hollister and Aeropstale.
Detectives also left property at the homes that they couldn't prove was stolen and had an estimated value at three times the value of the items that were seized, Lattin said.
In December, officers were called to Toys R Us after employees reported two women pushed a cart full of toys out of the store.
Officers spotted the suspects driving away and two women jumped out of the vehicle near Carmike Cinemas. Ramirez was caught, but the other occupant, later identified as Zarate, got away, court documents said.
The organized retail theft ring may have connections to Spokane, Tacoma and Seattle, Lattin said.
At the time of her arrest, Zarate had a pending charge of organized retail theft in Pierce County from Nov. 27, court documents said.
Zarate pleaded innocent Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree organized retail theft. Her trial is set for March 26. She is being held in the Benton County jail on $7,500 bail.
Quarles also pleaded innocent to the same charge and faces the same trial date. She is out of custody after posting bond on $3,000 bail.
Ramirez was charged in December after her arrest and faces a Feb. 13 trial for second-degree organized retail theft.
Sunnyside police find meth, cash, stolen pistol
A call about a suspicious vehicle near a Sunnyside park led to the recovery of meth, cash and a stolen pistol, authorities said.
Sunnyside police were called at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday to South Hill Park and found a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta with two people inside who had previously been banned from the park, said Charlotte Hinderlider, police spokeswoman.
Ramon Ruelas Rodriguez, 25, and Olga Blanco Diaz, 27, both of Sunnyside were detained for trespassing.
Officers found 8 grams of methamphetamine, scales, ledgers and $2,700 in the car, she said. When Ruelas Rodriguez was searched, officers reported finding a stolen Bersa .380-caliber pistol.
Ruelas Rodriguez was arrested on suspicion of being an alien in possession of a gun, possession of a stolen gun, possessing meth with intent to deliver and second-degree criminal trespassing.
Blanco Diaz was arrested on suspicion of second-degree criminal trespassing.
Pasco woman suffers minor injuries in crash
A Pasco woman escaped serious injury after she crashed her car into a semi-truck on Highway 395 in Pasco.
The crash happened just before noon Thursday at the Kartchner Street exit.
Washington State Patrol troopers said Marcelina Mora, 53, was driving south on the highway when she went into the median, overcorrected back onto the highway and hit the middle of the semi-truck.
The truck had just entered the freeway from Kartchner Street, troopers said.
Mora's car got stuck under the truck, but she suffered minor injuries and declined to be taken to the hospital.
The semi-truck was driven by Harmandeep Sidhu, 38, of Abbotsford, British Columbia.