Police: Spree of shoplifting ends in Aspen
ASPEN – Two California men were arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing an estimated $27,000 worth of merchandise – mostly high-end ski gear – from at least six retail shops in Aspen, and possibly Vail.
Devint Visanh Vongphachan, 25, and Philbert Lantin Delrio, 31, face five felony charges and a misdemeanor of possessing less than one ounce of marijuana.
They appeared Thursday handcuffed at the wrists and ankles in front of Judge James Boyd of the Ninth Judicial District Court in Aspen. They were advised of their rights and the charges pending against them. If convicted, they would face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. Boyd set their bond at $50,000 each.
Aspen police officers arrested Vongphachan, of San Pablo, and Delrio, of Union City, around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Their car allegedly had two duffel bags stuffed with 51 jackets manufactured by North Face, Marmot, Cloudveil, Arcteryx and Polo. Also in the duffel bags were six bottles of Cristal champagne, two pair of Arcteryx ski pants and several accessory items from Prada and other brands.
The men were apprehended in the parking lot of City Market after police officers David Thompson and Gregg Cole responded to a theft in progress at the North Face store, 405 E. Cooper Ave., according to a warrantless arrest affidavit filed Thursday.
Store employee Mike Sear reported two Asian males had just stolen three North Face jackets. He described one of the assailants wearing a black North Face jacket and the other wearing a camouflage jacket and a black hat with fur-covered ear flaps.
Twenty minutes later, Thompson witnessed the suspects entering The Grog Shop, next to City Market. Cole arrived on scene and watched the suspects inside the liquor store, and they matched the description Sear had provided to police, according to the affidavit.
Cole asked Delrio for identification, and he provided the officer with a California driver’s license. Vongphachan said he didn’t have any identification and told Aspen police officer Adam Loudon his was name was David Wong and was from North Carolina.
The men were arrested after they were identified by Sear in a field lineup. A Subaru key was found on Vongphachan. A community safety officer used the key to remotely unlock the car, which was parked in the City Market lot.
Officers allegedly found a black hat with fur-covered ear flaps on the center console and a black North Face Summit Series jacket with a red insignia that was stashed between the duffel bags in the backseat. Multiple clothing hangers were underneath the front passenger seat of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.
The jacket matched the description of one that was stolen from the North Face store on Jan. 9 by two males, one said to be Asian and the other described as Hispanic.
The car was impounded, and a search warrant was obtained. Inside the vehicle, officers found items that matched the description of the three jackets stolen from the North Face store on Jan. 13. Their value was estimated at $1,647, according to the affidavit.
The vehicle also contained two North Face jackets that were allegedly stolen on Jan. 9. Those items are valued at $1,098.
There also was a pair of aviator-type sunglasses and a gray Vans hat, which match the items a suspect in the Jan. 9 North Face thefts wore, according to the affidavit.
Cole also allegedly found two rings of keys that are commonly used to unlock display cases, and three magnetic devices that are used to unlock merchandise that is secured on display racks.
A small bag of marijuana was also allegedly found in the glove compartment. Police estimated the value of the contents in the vehicle at about $27,000.
Before they were arrested, Vongphachan and Delrio said they weren’t driving the Subaru and had been dropped off by friends, according to the affidavit. The 2010 Subaru station wagon was traced back to Hertz Car Rental, and officers determined that it had been rented for the two men by a woman.
Delrio and Vongphachan are on felony probation for receiving stolen property and have convictions for burglary and theft, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin.
He told Boyd he believed both suspects are not allowed to leave the state of California per the terms of their probations. He asked that their bonds of $16,300 and $15,050 be increased due to their flight risk.
Delrio was convicted last April for receiving stolen property in Fairfield, Calif. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail and 36 months of probation. Delrio also has a previous burglary conviction and served time in county jail.
“Should he be convicted here, it would be his third strike,” Mordkin told the judge.
Vongphachan was convicted of petty theft in Sacramento and receiving stolen property in Fremont, Calif. He received three years of probation in 2009, according to Mordkin.
Delrio asked the judge that he be released on his own recognizance so he could return to California and resume work as a contractor building model homes.
“I want to get back to my normal life,” he told Boyd. “I’ve never been a flight liability.”
Delrio and Vongphachan face the following felony charges: one count of a theft greater than $20,000; six counts of a theft greater than $1,000; six counts of second-degree burglary; one count of conspiracy to commit theft and burglary and one count of possessing burglary tools.
The suspects are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 1.
Cole said the items indicate that the alleged thefts didn’t just occur in Aspen.
“There were sweatshirts and shirts that said ‘Vail’ on them,” he said. “There was a little of everything.”
Aspen police will be contacting the Vail Police Department to coordinate the investigation.
It’s unknown how long the alleged shoplifting spree lasted. Cole said the Subaru was rented on Jan. 6 and the first documented theft occurred on Jan. 9.
When the suspects were first contacted in the City Market parking lot, they were uncooperative, he said.
“We weren’t getting straight answers, and they were pretty evasive,” he said.
Aspen police want retailers who believe they were a victim of theft to call the department at 920-5400.
“We have all of this unclaimed stuff, and we know it’s stolen,” said Aspen police investigator Walter Chi. “We’re not the only jurisdiction that was hit.”
As detectives catalog the recovered property, they will contact businesses to identify their property.
“We have located some stores but not all of them,” Chi said.
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The Brush Creek Fire, located near Brush Mountain on Douglas Pass, and the Oil Springs Fire, located 20 miles south of Rangely and about 11 miles from the Brush Creek Fire, are contributing to the smokey air in and around Garfield County