BELLEVUE, Wash - Bellevue Police Department busted three major organized retail theft rings. Detectives said the accused thieves have caused havoc on stores across the region, stealing hundreds of thousands dollars in merchandise.
In the first case, the alleged crooks targeted the Louis Vuitton store in Bellevue twice in June 2022. Four suspects were seen on surveillance video swiping $93,000 worth of merchandise. Detectives said all four suspects have "extensive criminal histories." Police said a fifth suspect was selling the stolen items online.
"They’re very brazen. They use or have the propensity to use violence," said Captain Shelby Shearer, of Bellevue Police Department. "They target high-end goods such as purses and high-end clothing. And they have no regard for security. And they’ll come in and just rip merchandise right off the shelves, sometimes damaging the stores."
In a second case back in October and November of 2021, police said 24-year-old Janay Luckey was caught on camera at Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack in Bellevue cutting security tags off the items and walking out both stores with a total of $13,000 in merchandise. Investigators said Luckey faces charges for theft and trafficking in Bellevue. Police said Luckey is also charged in Seattle for retail theft of more than $84,000.
Detectives said they’re finding these suspected crooks because their organized retail theft ring members are selling the stolen goods online.
"Not only do we see them committing thefts in Bellevue, the same day they might take a trip down to Southcenter Mall or over to Northgate and do the very same thing," said Shearer. "We’re hoping that this bust will put a huge dent in just the thefts all around because there’s so many players involved. Maybe we can get that message out and say this is not tolerated in Bellevue or in the greater Seattle area."
While detectives track down where the stolen merchandise is, some of it has been recovered. The third case, for example, included 62 bottles of designer perfume totaling to $7,000 swiped from Ulta Beauty in Factoria. Police said all of the items were returned to the store.
King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed charges against the suspected thieves. This includes organized retail theft in the first degree and trafficking in stolen property in the first degree. The prosecutor’s office said there could additional charges filed in these cases.
"If convicted as charged in this Bellevue case, that sentence could bring years. And that’s what prosecutors will argue for because this is behavior that’s got to stop," said Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Suspect Billy Chambers was part of the biggest theft at Louis Vuitton, and also has one of the longest criminal records in the group.
"He’s somebody that we’re certainly familiar with. And whenever we see felony cases for him, we go before judges and say this is someone who we think is a clear danger and needs to be on the high end of the sentencing range," said McNerthney.
The prosecutor’s office said Chambers was out of jail for a previous felony retail theft case. He is notoriously known for his conviction of manslaughter after he and another suspect beat Edward McMichael to death in 2008. McMichael was known as Seattle’s beloved "Tuba Man."
"A lot of people ask how can you kill somebody and still be out? The most chilling part of the Tuba Man murder case was that we had to charge it as manslaughter because multiple witnesses wouldn’t talk and tell what they saw. So, we were limited to what we could get there," said McNerthney.
Though bound by the sentencing guidelines set by state lawmakers, the prosecutor’s office said it will be asking for the suspected criminals, including Chambers, to see the maximum sentence in these felony retail theft cases.
"I think a lot of people don’t realize that it’s state lawmakers who set those guidelines. But what we’ll keep doing is keep going before judges and say this somebody who is a danger, who is not following court orders, who needs to be given the high end of the range. Because this behavior, even with multiple felony convictions, isn’t stopping," said McNerthney.