Deputies: Arrests Made in Two-County Retail Theft Ring

A joint operation between the sheriff’s offices of Volusia and Seminole counties culminated Wednesday with the arrests of five suspects linked to an organized felony retail theft ring.

That's according to a release from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office, which added that one person was still being sought Wednesday.

Investigators say the alleged members of the ring were believed to be responsible for the theft of about $10,000 a month from retail stores throughout Central Florida. 

Detectives say they believe the purported theft ring has been in operation since 2013 and is responsible for a combined retail theft of $360,000 from retail stores including Walmart, Target and Publix in Volusia and Seminole counties, and a sports retail store in Lake Mary. 

According to accounts from the Sheriff's Office, the thieves have been selling the stolen property to a local fence for resale or, in some cases, trading the loot for drugs.

Investigators say five men, including three brothers, were arrested Wednesday.

Francesco Mazella, 35, Dalton Black, 24, Austin Black, 26, Brandon Black, 27, and Joseph Gonzalez-Cruz, 28, were arrested by the authorities.

Howard Proano-Tello, 26, remained at large, according to deputies, and was considered a fugitive.

All suspects are reportedly residents of the greater central Florida area.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office says its investigation began after an Oct. 2, 2016, shoplifting call at a Deltona Walmart.

Investigators say two suspects were observed filling a shopping cart with multiple bottles and other containers of various laundry detergents, as well as dry cat food.

Detectives said the scene would be repeated many times at stores in a two-county area.

Throughout an investigation lasting more than a year, detectives say they reviewed surveillance video and photographs; conducted photo lineups and interviews; checked law enforcement databases; and tracked the suspects using investigative means.

Officials say the arrest warrants have been turned over to the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office, which will prosecute the cases because they occurred in Volusia and Seminole counties.

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