A man and a woman from Southern California have been arrested on an indictment charging them with conspiracy and 10 counts of wire fraud related to an organized retail theft scheme amounting to $800,000.

Jalen Amir Thomas, 27, of Santa Monica and Armia Ta’Jae Timmons, 25, of Los Angeles, were arrested on the 11-count indictment. They appeared in the US District Court in the Central District of California on Wednesday. According to US Attorney Nick Brown, the pair traveled through 23 different states and hit nearly 200 stores. Prosecutors will ask that they be detained and transported to the Western District of Washington for arraignment.

“Organized retail theft has exploded across the country, due in large part to the growth of an online resale marketplace,” said Brown in a statement. “In this case, we allege the co-conspirators hatched a scheme to rent high-value construction equipment and then fail to return it. They allegedly sold the stolen goods on websites such as OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace.”

As per the indictment, Thomas led a group including Timmons from as early as March 2022, that traveled the country stopping at home improvement stores and renting two types of expensive construction equipment: jumping jack tampers and vibratory plate compactors valued between $1,500 and $2,000 each.

The group used debit cards to make a small rental deposit for each machine and signed an agreement that if the equipment was not returned on time, they would pay mounting fees. They used false identities and ruse telephone numbers to rent the equipment and transported stolen goods in vans and rental trucks.

In total, some 480 pieces of equipment were stolen from the home improvement stores. When a store tried to charge the debit account for the value of the equipment or the penalties incurred, it learned there was insufficient funds to cover the debt.

Because the deposits traveled by wire outside the state of Washington, the pair is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud and/or aiding and abetting wire fraud. The conspiracy count and the wire fraud counts are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.