Monday, August 27, 2012

Suspects used children to steal from area stores, police say

By Benjamin Wermund  - The Blotter,

Four adults who police say used children to help steal thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise from several Central Texas stores have been charged with organized retail theft and child endangerment, according to arrest affidavits.

Noe Puente, 25, Diana Puente, 23, Nereyda Perez, 26, and Valentin Perez III, 24, were arrested at the Round Rock Premium Outlets on Friday, records show. Police say the two couples stole more than $6,700 worth of merchandise from the Round Rock stores as well as the San Marcos Premium Outlets and Sea World in San Antonio, the records say.

According to arrest records, the couples would take their children into retail stores and put stolen merchandise into the children’s backpacks. In all four children — one belonging to Noe and Diane Puente and three belonging to Nereyda and Valentin Perez — were involved, arrest records said. The children ranged in age from 2 to 11 years, arrest records said.

On Friday, an employee at the Burberry outlet store in Round Rock reviewed security tapes and saw three adults and one child enter the store at different times, pretending to not know one another, arrest records said. One adult distracted employees while the others began taking merchandise, according to arrest records. At one point, an adult is seen putting a purse in the child’s backpack and adjusting the backpack to ensure the purse did not draw attention, arrest records said.

After reviewing the tape, the employee saw two of the adults re-enter the store and called Round Rock police, arrest records said. Officers found them in the store, and other officials found the other two adults in Kenneth Cole, arrest records said.

All four were taken to the Williamson Count Jail, where Valentin Perez III remains with a bail set at $45,000, records show. Nereyda Perez was released Saturday and Noe and Diana Puente were released Sunday, jail records show.

The children were taken in by the county’s victim’s assistance program until they could find relatives to live with, records show.

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