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A self-admitted fentanyl user is charged with shoplifting around $15,000 worth of purses and bags over several months from TJ Maxx stores in Albuquerque.
Jonathan R. Baca, 38, is charged with 28 counts of shoplifting in the incidents which spanned from January to mid-July.
Baca was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Thursday.
It is unclear if he has an attorney.
Court records show Baca has been recently arrested in unrelated incidents and found with fentanyl or the paraphernalia used to smoke it.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s Organized Retail Crime detectives investigated the TJ Maxx case against Baca, who came to be known as “purse guy” after being identified as a frequent shoplifter in January 2022.
Corporate officials told police Baca had shoplifted more than $30,000 worth of items from their stores but, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court, the investigation found just over $14,975 in losses.
Police said the first documented theft in the case happened Jan. 22 when Baca walked into a TJ Maxx near Winrock Mall and stole $250 worth of handbags.
Between then and July 14, Baca allegedly shoplifted 37 times from TJ Maxx, 27 of those times at the store at Montgomery and Louisiana NE. Police said he used pliers and tools to “defeat security devices” – stealing up to $1,000 worth of merchandise, most often purses, luggage and various bags.
The thefts happened within minutes and, according to the complaint, Baca would sometimes return to the store to shoplift within hours of the last incident.
Police said Baca often wore no disguise and, when wearing a face mask, was identified by a “distinct walk” – grabbing his pants with his right hand and a forward lean. The complaint included photos allegedly showing Baca, his arms filled with purses and bags, walking out of the store.
Police said Baca was arrested in December during a holiday tactical plan targeting shoplifters and told police he stole merchandise to support a drug habit.