A juvenile theft ring in Lovington was busted Tuesday.
Five juveniles were arrested by Lovington Police and are accused of stealing approximately $17,250 worth of inventory from a Loving-ton Tobacco and Vape store, according to LPD detectives.
A 15-year-old male of Hobbs was arrested on Feb. 22 and charged with larceny over $2,500, under $20,000, a third-degree felony; burglary of a structure, tampering with evidence, and three counts of conspiracy to commit a third-degree, all fourth-degree felonies.
A 17-year-old male of Lovington, a
16-year-old male of Lovington, and a 12-year-old m a l e of Lovington were also charged with larceny over $2,500, under $20,000, a third-degree felony; burglary of a structure, tampering with evidence, and three counts of conspiracy to commit a third-degree felony, all fourth-degree felonies.
Another teenager male of Lovington believed to be involved in the incident was not charged due to lack of evidence but, is the brother to the 17-year-old and the 12-year-old.
According to the LPD’s crimi n a l complaint, on July 3, LPD detectives were contacted about a burglary that occurred at Lovington Tobacco and Vape on the 1000 block of South Main Street in Lovington.
The tobacco and vape store had apparently been broken into with a pry bar via a drive thru window, and several thousands of dollars worth of items were taken from the shop.
The owner of the business told detectives the suspects involved are known to the owner and one of the juvenile suspects is a runaway.
Three days after the break in, on July 6, the business owner told detectives a juvenile came into his store and told him who stole from him. According to the store owner, the juvenile showed the owner a photo on social media of the alleged stolen goods being sold and provided two names who were selling the items.
According to the complaint, detectives located the mother of one of the juveniles, the 16-year-old, and had her watch video footage from the store. The mother identified the 16-year-old as her son.
On July 20, detectives interviewed two of the brothers about the incident — the teenage male who was not charged and 17-year-old male.
When detectives were interviewing the brothers, the 17-year-old was noted by detectives to be wearing the same shoes seen in the video footage from the store. Detectives also noticed the sweatshirt seen in the video matched the 17-year-old’s school photo as well.
The 17-year-old identified his friend, the 15-year-old, as his accomplice.
According to the 17-year-old, the 15-year-old from Hobbs contacted him about “hitting a lick” in Lovington. That lick, otherwise known as a burglary or job, was to break into the tobacco and vape store in Lovington.
The 17-year-old agreed to do the burglary but told detectives his brother, “(the other teenager male) didn’t do anything.”
The 17-year-old male stated the group entered into the business through the window.
“I just heard like a loud bang or something and then I turned around and the window was open,” the 17-year-old told detectives.
The 17-year-old stated the group grabbed everything they could from the store, then climbed back out of the window and ran down the alley with the items they had stolen. He told detectives he was only in possession of one item and all of the other items from the store were taken by the 15-year-old.
“To be honest with y’all I wasn’t going to come in, I wasn’t until y’all caught me,” the 16-year-old told police. “I got charged with the stuff plus being on the run… No sir, it’s all gone. 24 hours that’s all I needed.”
“That’s how quick you sold it?” detectives asked the 16-year-old.
“Well I didn’t sell it. To be honest I have no idea. I just got to the bag and gave it to the person that was in charge of everything (15-year-old male), from there (we) just split it. He’s from Hobbs,” the 16-year-old said.
The 16-year-old stated they did the robbery on the Fourth of July because the 15-year-old said the store would be closed.
“And he’s all, you know what, they’re gonna be closed cause they’re gonna be at the park watching the firework show. And I’m like, well yeah alright. Then he’s all so come on…,” the 16-year-old explained to detectives.
The 16-year-old told detectives the group was at the brothers’ home because the group had plans to stay at home, but (the 15-year-old) asked the group, “Hey you wanna go hit a lick at tobacco and vape whenever I go into town.”
The 16-year-old told detectives it was the brothers — the 17-year-old, the teen brother, 12-year-old brother — and the 15-year-old who performed the robbery.
“It was them 3, me and yeah,” 16-year-old told detectives. “They gave me a backpack whenever they packed everything up already. We got there and he’s (the 15-year-old) all alright. He actually had like, planned it out cause he sat us, he put us in positions. …I’m like, dang, so you already had this planned out. He’s all, ‘Yeah’ and he’s all, ‘Alright so we were gonna go through the window, open it, jump in, get the stuff and get out.’ And that’s pretty much what we did.”
“Wait, the guy who was leading all of this stayed outside?” detectives asked the 16-year-old.
“Yes, he stayed outside. He stayed outside and made us go in,” the 16-year-old said. “He actually left us. We’re all like why’d you ditch us though, he’s all bro cause I thought there was a cop coming…(The 15-year-old) divvied up the stuff. To be honest, I do regret it, I do. I was at the bad place, wrong time. … wrong place, wrong crowd, just you know, you don’t know what could happen. And then when we left the house we were all stoned, we were stoned.”
According to Fifth Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce, the one teenage brother was not charged due to lack of evidence.
The 17-year-old is set for a restitution hearing and probation for a period not to exceed two years and have an ankle monitor put on.
The 15-year-old, 12-year-old, and the 16-year-old had their charges dropped because the DA’s office was unable to contact the store owner for pre-trial interviews.
“We had the witnesses scheduled, subpoenas issued, and they did not happen. If they don’t answer, that’s all we can do. We did the pre-trial interviews with the officers. (One of the store owners) said he was in California, and he would not do the pre-trial interview. And then, when we contacted them again, he said his nephew was involved and he would not do a pre-trial interview. His nephew was involved in the crime somehow, whether he was charged or a witness, I don’t know,” Luce told the News-Sun.
The store owner, Alwathekbella Alshaif, said he was never contacted by the DA’s office about pursuing charges on the juveniles.
“They never called me, they never contacted me. The detective called me and said someone may call me from the court but nobody called me,” Alshaif said.
Gabrielle Arsiaga may be reached at .