BELLEVUE, Wash - A second suspect faced a King County Judge connected to a series of organized retail thefts in Bellevue.
Benito Uriostegui was arraigned on Monday for two counts of organized retail theft in the first and second degree.
Uriostegui, along with Jesus Delgado, and three other suspects were also charged for their involvement in the organized retail theft, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Delgado appeared before a judge for his probable cause hearing last week.
"Any time we have the opportunity to take these criminals off the street and interrupt their operation in our city or make it less attractive to come to Bellevue and engage in this activity, that’s a huge win for us," said Major David Sanabria, with Bellevue Police Department. "It’s a high priority for our department."
Bellevue Police Department said Uriostegui and Delgado were two of the suspects who stole more than $17,000 worth of designer handbags and clothes from the Bellevue Square Nordstrom store on January 10 and 11.
"This is not a victimless crime," said Sanabria.
"No business should have to deal with that, large or small," said Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office. "It’s not only affecting businesses but driving up the costs for consumers."
Detectives said the two-day heist was planned out, from the different entrances the suspects used, to the routes they took throughout the store, and communicating with each other by cellphone. As they were ripping off the store, surveillance cameras got a good look at their faces to help investigators track them down.
"Once we started to get some really good video and make some identifications based off video analysis and social media, we were able to start to put some names to faces. When we start to do that then it’s just a matter of time before we put them into custody," said Sanabria.
Uriostegui had been convicted 10 times before, in which seven convictions were for organized retail theft.
"There’s a trend here in organized retail theft," said Judge Mark Larranaga addressing the court during Uriostegui’s arraignment. "We have long criminal history here."
Uriostegui’s defense attorney argued that he be released on electronic home monitoring, stating the allegations against him were "merely property crimes." However, prosecutors countered, revealing to the court the suspect was already out on bond for a separate case for residential burglary and drive-by shooting when the January retail thefts occurred. Prosecutors also mentioned Uriostegui admitted to Bellevue detectives there was at least one gun at his home when he was arrested for the retail thefts.
"He knows he’s not supposed to possess firearms, and he continues to do so," said one prosecutor to the court.
"We’ve got to show good reason why there’s a danger to the public or a likelihood that somebody is not going to show up to court. And we expressed both of those based off of the history we thought was appropriate for the court to know," said McNerthney.
Uriostegui is scheduled for his next pre-trial court proceedings on Feb. 29. Judge Larranaga ordered if Uriostegui bonds out of jail for this organized retail theft case, he will be required to be on electronic home monitoring. The remaining suspects charged are also scheduled for court later this month.
The prosecutor’s office partners with regional and state task forces addressing organized retail theft in Washington.
"In recent years, we saw more than double the number of organized retail thefts charges by our office. And we’re still at a very high pace now and that’s because people think they can get away with these crimes and that’s just not the way it is," said McNerthney. "I think there might be a misguided idea that you can get away with ripping people off, but when we have evidence to prove cases, we are going to bring those before the court."
Bellevue Police Department launched an organized retail theft task force in 2023. The task force has partnerships with stores throughout the city. The group hosts monthly meetings with business owners while detectives focus on addressing high-problem areas in Bellevue.
"They have to review hours of video, and they have to look at a lot of social media, and they listen to jail calls, all sorts of things to kind of put together this picture, this really compelling case," explained Sanabria. "And then at the end of the day, our folks want to put handcuffs on them and hold them accountable for coming into our city for doing this activity."