For the second time in less than a month, Glendale police have broken up what appears to be an elaborate theft scheme at the Glendale Galleria, this one involving an attempt to get refunds for expensive stolen tuxedos.
Last month several people who tried to buy merchandise using counterfeit gift certificates at the Broadway were foiled.
Three people were stopped last week when they tried to get an $830 refund for a tuxedo at the Nordstrom department store in the shopping center.
Avalon Mitchelle, 28, and Steven Watson, 28, were arraigned last Thursday on one count each of second-degree commercial burglary and attempted grand theft of personal property, both misdemeanors, Deputy Dist. Atty. Paula Gonzalez said.
Jodarl Holmes, 30, was also arraigned but pleaded guilty to one count of resisting, obstructing and delaying a peace officer, Gonzalez said. Holmes, who drove the getaway car, was sentenced to 10 days in jail and one year of probation.
A third man who entered the store but escaped is being sought by police in connection with the incident.
Glendale police said Watson, Mitchelle and the man who escaped entered the Nordstrom store Oct. 30 to return a tuxedo worth about $800. Police believe the tuxedo was stolen from another Nordstrom store.
The tuxedo had a Nordstrom price tag with numerical security sales codes that appeared to be legitimately completed by a sales clerk and that indicated it was purchased at the South Bay Nordstrom, Officer Maurice Bunzey said.
The Glendale clerk called the clerk in the South Bay store whose code was on the tag, and then learned that the South Bay clerk had never sold the item and that the store did not carry that tuxedo brand, Bunzey said.
The South Bay clerk also reported that a number of returns had been coming in recently with his number on the merchandise.
The Glendale clerk then sent the trio to the store's customer service counter, where they were met by security officers. The three then ran. Watson and Mitchelle got into a vehicle in the parking lot and, with Holmes driving, led police on a chase through Glendale and northeast Los Angeles, with the chase ending in Silver Lake near Vermont Avenue and the Hollywood Freeway, Officer Todd Stokes said.
Police found four more tuxedos and merchandise in the car totaling about $3,500 that might also have been stolen, Stokes said.
Items in Mitchelle's purse "indicated these people had learned how to make up the numbers so that it appeared as though the merchandise had been purchased at the store," Stokes said.
Bunzey said returning such an expensive item was bound to cause suspicions.
"An item of say $39.95 would have gotten by but not a high-cost item such as this," Bunzey said.
Mitchelle was being held at Sybil Brand Institute on $8,000 bail. Watson was released and is tentatively scheduled to return for arraignment Dec. 3.