San Francisco prosecutors charged a woman with organized retail theft and other felonies for allegedly stealing more than $15,000 in merchandise from a Bath & Body Works store over seven months.
Carmelita Barela, 30, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Thursday to charges of organized retail theft, grand theft and shoplifting for a series of 20 alleged thefts at the store's location in San Francisco Centre (formerly known as Westfield mall) between March and October, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office said.
Barela was taken into custody without incident on Nov. 6, according to authorities. A judge granted the prosecutors' request to hold her without bail pending trial because she poses a public safety risk.
“Organized retail theft is a source of deep concern for the residents and businesses of our City,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement. “This arrest and prosecution reflects our on-going commitment to hold repeat offenders accountable for their actions.”
The charges against Barela are part of a retail theft prosecution program funded by a state grant secured by Jenkins' office.
Investigators are working to identify additional suspects in the Bath & Body Works thefts, according to prosecutors.
The mall is the former home of Nordstrom, which pulled out of the location earlier this year.
The Westfield and its owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said in a May statement that the Nordstrom closure "underscores the deteriorating situation in Downtown San Francisco.
"A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area," the statement said.
Westfield gave up the mall to its lender, and the mall is now simply known as San Francisco Centre.
A June analysis by The Standard showed that 45 stores, or 46% of the mall’s 97 pre-pandemic retailers, had closed since 2020. In the same span, 21 new stores opened there. The wave of closures left the shopping center with many vacant storefronts.