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Manteca officers bust another retail theft ring with 2 arrests

Two Stanislaus County men were arrested in Manteca on Saturday on charges of organized retail theft. 

Robert Michael Lee Jr., 33 of Oakdale, and Erik Estrada, 27 of Waterford, were taken into custody by Manteca Police officers who had received a call of a theft in progress from a local retail store. Officers apprehended the men as they fled the business with the merchandise in tow and discovered that they were also in possession of other items believed to have been stolen from other local retail stores. Items recovered including clothing, accessories, power tools, and electronic equipment, and both men were also in possession of drug paraphernalia – syringes and spoons as well a pipe and bags containing what was believed to be drugs. 

Neither Lee nor Estrada were still in custody by Monday afternoon. 

Manteca Police have been stepping up patrols in retail areas as a way to combat the organized retail theft rings that end up costing shoppers more money when retailers adjust their prices to compensate for the losses – in some cases racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise over a wide geographic region. 

Stories that carry high-demand items that are easily sold online like Ulta Beauty have been targeted by groups that bring in bags and stuff them with as much product as possible before running out past shoppers who are filming the entire thing on their cellular phones – oftentimes not even bothering to obscure their faces. The brazen nature of the crimes has prompted some larger retailers that carry high-priced items, like Apple, to hire off-duty police officers or trained security as a way to combat the rising tide of theft. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or 209.249.3544.