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Fast-food workers arrested over theft ring allegedly run out of Tucson chicken restaurant

The investigation into the theft ring last almost an entire year.
It's National Fried Chicken Day! Here's where to celebrate — and eat
Posted at 11:14 AM, Dec 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-07 13:14:21-05

TUCSON, AZ — Three fast-food employees have been arrested for running a complex and extensive theft ring out of the fried chicken restaurant they worked at, police say.

The investigation began in December of last year in Tucson, Arizona, when a shoplifting case led investigators to become aware of “potential trafficking-in-stolen-property activity that involved employees of a chicken storefront,” according to a statement from the Tucson Police Department (TPD) in Arizona.

“Investigators noted activity consistent with a fencing operation in which staff members of the restaurant were paying known shoplifters for items that were stolen from businesses in the area,” the Tucson Police Department said. Detectives from Operations Division West/Neighborhood Crimes Unit and Operations Division South officers continued monitoring the business. Once TPD investigators noted the magnitude and complexity of the investigation, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and investigators from the affected business began working jointly.”

Authorities launched an extensive investigation combined with ongoing surveillance and discovered that three of the restaurant’s employees were reselling the stolen items out of their own homes as well as on an online marketplace, TPD said, and also identified two addresses where the stolen property was being stored.

Their investigation, which lasted almost a year, came to a head on Nov. 29 when TPD officers, along with HSI Agents, served simultaneous search warrants at the restaurant and two homes they had been surveilling.

“As a result of the search warrants, police recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property to include tools, clothing, shoes, diapers, and electronics,” TPD said in their statement.

Three people were arrested in connection with the operation: 52-year-old Lydia Grijalva-Velasquez, 61-year-old Fabian Rodriguez Rios and 45-year-old Francis Sophia Vasquez.

Each of them were arrested on charges of trafficking in stolen property and booked into the Pima County Jail.

“The Tucson Police Department would like to thank our federal and local partners for their continued support, and we look forward to building successful partnerships to combat this criminal activity that affects not only the retailer, but ultimately, the consumer,” TPD said following the announcement of the arrests.

Court dates for the three suspects have yet to be confirmed and the investigation into the theft ring is currently ongoing.