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'Travelers' hit Medford stores for bras, fragrances, diamonds

Two separate traveling crews of suspected serial thieves struck in Medford over the weekend, stealing thousands of dollars' worth of bras, perfume and a $30,000 diamond ring in three brazen heists when the businesses were open and full of holiday shoppers, police said.

The thieves appear to be working the Interstate 5 corridor to load up with high-end merchandise that investigators often later find sold for pennies on the dollar at flea markets and swap meets, often in California, authorities said. 

"We call them 'travelers,'" Medford police Sgt. Brent Mak said. "With I-5 right there, we see them go up and down the state monthly.

"Sometimes they literally walk in with an open bag, swipe their arm over a shelf and load up with property," Mak said.

That's what one trio did minutes apart Friday evening at the Victoria's Secret store in the Rogue Valley Mall and then the nearby Ulta Beauty store in the Northgate Marketplace.

The group entered Victoria's Secret around 6 p.m. and stuffed armloads of bras into shopping bags, then did the same with fragrance bottles at Ulta, police said. In both cases, they bolted out the store doors without confrontations, Mak said.

"They know the store employees won't try to confront them or physically stop them," Mak said.

Video surveillance showed the same three suspects were responsible for both crimes, Mak said.

The suspects were identified as a black man and two black women, and they were believed to be driving a late-model, dark gray sedan, possibly a Toyota, police said. 

A separate crew hit Costco about 1:30 p.m. Sunday when a Hispanic man looking at a $30,000 diamond ring snatched it and ran out of the store to an awaiting Cadillac Escalade that sped away, police said. Police later found and stopped that vehicle and arrested its two occupants on charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated first-degree theft, but the ring-snatcher apparently was previously let out of the vehicle, police said.

Taken into custody were 19-year-old Valentino Ruben Maes and 28-year-old Jimmie Rinard Tiger, whose addresses were listed in Jackson County Jail logs only as from California. Maes remained jailed this afternoon on $40,000 bail and Tiger was released early this morning after posting bail, jail records show.

Mak said officers were able to identify the man who fled the store with the ring, but he declined to name him.

Mak said investigators at agencies up and down the I-5 corridor regularly keep in contact about cases such as this so if investigators don't catch up to their suspects here, they may identify them and add local charges if they are captured doing similar deeds elsewhere.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.