Fairfax County police are looking for a trio of brazen, daytime thieves who swiped more than $10,000 worth of clothing, last Saturday, from Fair Oaks Mall.
The suspects are described as Hispanic, in their early 20s and between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches. Two wore dark blue jeans, one had a white short-sleeved shirt and the other wore a dark blue shirt.
However, they fled when police arrived on the scene — leaving behind a brown, 1995 Chevrolet Astro van with South Carolina license plates in the parking lot. And inside the van was the merchandise they'd stolen.
In a July 10 affidavit for a warrant to search the van, Det. Bill Baitinger of the Fair Oaks District Station's Criminal Investigations Section, explained what happened. He said that, that day around 5:09 p.m., Nelson Harrah, the regional loss-prevention officer for the Banana Republic stores, was working at the Fair Oaks store.
"He observed two Hispanic males enter his store and one Hispanic male stand outside in the mall area," wrote the detective. "The two inside the store began to load store merchandise into a bag they had brought into the store with them. One of the two men then walked to the entrance of the store with the merchandise in the bag and passed it to the male waiting outside."
Baitinger wrote that neither of the two men ever made any attempt to pay for the clothing. Meanwhile, he added, the man outside the mall handed one of the men inside the store an empty bag. That man then re-entered the Banana Republic and began filling that bag, too, with store merchandise.
Harrah followed the man with the bag full of clothes outside into the mall parking lot. He watched him go to the Astro van parked nearby, enter it and lean across the center seat into the rear cargo area. "Mr. Harrah said he saw the subject place the merchandise into another bag and cinch it closed," wrote Baitinger. "The male then exited the vehicle and re-entered the mall."
According to the detective, Harrah said he contacted the police a short while later. Harrah also noted that, before police could respond, the same man made three more trips to that van with merchandise.
Officer Ronald Haas of the Fair Oaks District Station was the first responding officer, and Harrah pointed out the van to him. "Haas pulled up to the van and observed the Hispanic male exiting the right sliding side door," wrote Baitinger. "The subject observed the officer, dropped several bags and fled on foot, back into the mall. Haas stayed with the van and recovered the bags that were dropped by the male."
Upon examining the bags, Haas discovered that one of them was foil-lined. When he later showed the bags to Harrah, he was advised that they were the same type of bags that Harrah had watched the suspects fill with clothing inside the store. Meanwhile, several more officers responded to the scene, but no one could find the thieves.
Haas looked into the back of the van and saw several large bags in the cargo area. Although he couldn't see inside them, he observed that they were pulled closed with a cinch-type cord. He remained with the vehicle and had it towed to the Fair Oaks District Station. He then contacted Baitinger, who met with him and learned about the thefts.
Believing the van contained the stolen clothing, Baitinger obtained a search warrant so police could enter it and investigate. He then executed the warrant that night, Saturday, July 10, at 11 p.m.
According to the inventory, items seized by police from the van included 110 pieces of clothing from Abercrombie & Fitch, 85 items of clothing from Ann Taylor, 22 clothing items from Banana Republic and 19 pair of blue, Asphalt brand jeans.
Also seized were: A Puerto Rican birth record and Social Security card, a New York key ring with four keys, a Winnie the Pooh address book, $39 in cash, a 2004 road atlas, a backpack, two FOK brand bags, duct tape, plastic bags, 10 laundry bags and a brown teddy bear.
Anyone with information about this case or the men involved is asked to call police at 703-691-2131 or Crime Solvers at 800-673-2777.