Fresno gang members arrested in brazen heist
Published: June 29, 2012
POLICE JAILED two suspected
Norteño gang members early Tuesday after they broke into
the Coach store on Ocean Avenue and then led deputies on a short
vehicle chase that ended with they crashed in a North County
cauliflower field, Carmel P.D. detective Rachelle Lightfoot told
The Pine Cone.
Shortly before 1 a.m. June 26, 21-year-old Gabriel Orneles and
23-year-old Martin Juarez, both reportedly members of the Fresno
Bulldogs, pulled up in front of the upscale store at Ocean and
San Carlos in a rented Ford Escape SUV, broke a display window
with a sledgehammer and entered the store, according to
Lightfoot. Using large storage bins they had brought with them,
the two men loaded up nearly $12,000 worth of purses, wallets
and umbrellas in just a few minutes.
They were gone by the time CPD officers responding to the
store’s burglar alarm arrived, but a man who had witnessed the
break-in from across the street dialed 911 to report what he had
seen. “I don’t know why he waited,” to call, she said, but the
information he provided was useful.
“He saw two or three Hispanic males, and he wasn’t sure he could identify them if he saw them again, but he described the car really well,” Lightfoot said.
Carmel P.D. alerted local law-enforcement agencies to be on the
lookout for the Ford SUV, and about 20 minutes later, a
sheriff’s deputy spotted the car on Highway 1 near Reservation
Road and started following it. “He tried to pull them over, and
they took off,” Lightfoot said.
Orneles was driving and exited at Molera Road. As he tried to
escape, he turned off the headlights, attempting to disappear
into the darkness on the road that bisects agricultural fields,
according to Lightfoot.
Another deputy came to assist deputy Jason Smith in the chase,
and the suspects “ended up crashing in a cauliflower field near
Highway 1,” Lightfoot said. “They were probably 50 feet into the
field. I don’t know if they lost control or thought they would
be able to off-road, but it was only two-wheel drive.”
Juarez jumped out of the SUV and started to run, but after
deputies arrested the driver, he gave up, she said. “Neither one
of them wanted to talk to us,” she added.
The deputies took the two men to Monterey County Jail for
booking on several felony charges, including burglary,
conspiracy, gang affiliation and possession of stolen property,
as well as misdemeanor penal code and vehicle code violations.
Meanwhile, Lightfoot collected the bins full of Coach
merchandise to catalog it and return it to the store. All told,
the burglars took 44 items worth $11,800 retail, she said.
“I was able to tell because they still had their tags,” she
said. “They had just dashed in and grabbed everything and took
She also suspects Orneles and Juarez could be part of a larger
gang-related effort to steal from Coach stores.
“There have been prior Coach thefts around California, and we
are working with other agencies and Coach security,” she said.
Since November 2011, the company’s stores in Modesto, San
Francisco and Gilroy have been similarly burglarized. The
Modesto store was hit three times, San Francisco’s was broken
into twice, and Gilroy’s, once. The Carmel store was also
burglarized last November.
At least this time, she said, the company did not lose any of
its goods. “We were able to recover all the items,” she said.
“So Coach was pretty much only out a window.”