Attorney General Bonta announces sentencing of ring leader of an organized retail theft operation

Today, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the ring leader and two others involved in a retail theft ring were sentenced for their roles in a retail theft crime ring. The arrests and sentencing were part of a multijurisdictional investigation that broke up an organized retail theft operation targeting Walmart and Target stores.  

The individuals involved, Lawrence Fountain, Kevin Hawkins, and Zaniyah Hoilfield, pled guilty to felony charges of organized retail theft, robbery, and attempted robbery. The ring leader, Lawrence Fountain, agreed to a six-year state prison sentence, while the sentences of Hawkins and Hiilfield were not disclosed. 

The robberies began in February 2022 and involved a total of at least five suspects who stole approximately $130,000 in merchandise. The suspects would enter stores and steal video game consoles while threatening the employees with physical violence.

“Violent organized retail theft erodes the feeling of security in our state and has negative consequences for businesses, retailers, and consumers alike,” Bonta said in the announcement. “Through this sentencing and these charges, we are taking proactive steps towards ensuring that these bad actors are held responsible for their actions.”

California Department of Justice’s Organized Retail Criminal Enterprises (ORCE) investigators, along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), served search and arrest warrants at multiple locations in Southern California during the investigation. Three of the five suspects were apprehended during the searches.  

The alleged crimes occurred in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties. Two of the five suspects remain at large and are facing multiple felony charges brought by the California Department of Justice, including organized retail theft, robbery, and attempted robbery.

Retail theft has become a political hot issue, with many sheriffs and district attorneys statewide pressing for a reversal of 2014's voter-approved Proposition 47. There is a signature-gathering effort to place a reversal of sentencing reforms included in Prop 47 that many law enforcement officials claim have led to an increase in retail shoplifting, among other crimes.       

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