Young women arrested for multiple burglaries | News | Palo Alto Online |


Young women arrested for multiple burglaries

Crimes targeted real estate open houses, stores, including one in Palo Alto

Three young women face as many as 20 charges related to a crime spree that began six months ago in Palo Alto and other Santa Clara County cities, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety has announced.

The trio -- Melissa Larsen, 20, Madeline Amelia Lopez, 19, and Julia Marie Peruzzi, 18, all from Sunnyvale -- were arrested on Sept. 21 and 22, Sunnyvale police Capt. Shawn Ahern said.

The women allegedly targeted real estate open houses and stores, including a shop at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. They sought female employees working alone at an open house or in the business, police said. One of the women allegedly would plug a toilet or create another diversion while another allegedly would steal cash and credit cards from the victim's purse. Police said the third woman drove the getaway car to a Safeway or CVS store where they bought gift cards using the stolen credit cards.

The crimes spanned Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Gatos and Santa Clara. In the Palo Alto case, the Peruzzi and Larsen allegedly entered Malia Mills, a clothing shop at Town & Country, on May 8 at 4:30 p.m. and tried on clothing. They went into the changing area, which was separated from the showroom by a curtain, but they left without making a purchase, Palo Alto police Capt. Zach Perron said. The curtained area was within reach of a female employee's purse.

The female employee later discovered three unauthorized charges on two credit cards at various locations in the shopping center, totaling roughly $300, Perron said.

The employee went to the stores to investigate and found surveillance video of the women who made the purchases. She recognized them as the same two who had been trying on clothing at Malia Mills. She reported the crime to Palo Alto police on May 13, and investigators took possession of the surveillance video, Perron said.

A break came in late August, after Los Gatos/Monte Sereno detectives contacted Palo Alto police after seeing a flyer about the suspects in the Palo Alto case. Los Gatos/Monte Sereno police had identified the women after investigating a similar case in their jurisdiction, Perron said.

Larsen was subsequently charged with two felonies in the Palo Alto case: identity theft and second-degree burglary.

Sunnyvale detectives linked the three women to additional crimes and identified other victims. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office issued arrest warrants for the trio.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and Los Gatos, Palo Alto and Santa Clara police agencies worked collaboratively on the investigation.

Police are asking that anyone who thinks she was targeted in the crimes to contact them. Palo Alto residents can contact the Palo Alto Police Department at 650-329-2413.


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27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm

This crime spree was perpetrated by adults who were named in the police press release? Why is the newspaper reluctant to print their names and mugshots? They are charged with dozens of crimes, including felonies, so this is not a joke.

11 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Every store has video these days. Did they think they were invisible?

3 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2017 at 8:54 am

I echo Resident of Downtown North's thoughts. What is the agenda or reason for not printing the photos and names of the alleged criminals? There could be additional victims out there who might recognize them, potentially leading to new charges. I can understand if the charges were low-level or the accused were minors, but in this case highly irresponsible in terms of the big picture. An editor's response would be appreciated.

2 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 27, 2017 at 8:59 am

I stand corrected. I missed the link in the second paragraph to the police press release which contains photos and names of the accused. Tip of the cap and apologies for jumping to that conclusion.

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