ST. GEORGE — Two retail thefts totaling over $2,000 in merchandise allegedly taken from stores in different jurisdictions led to the arrest of a pair of Southern California women who spent a night in jail in Washington County over the weekend.

For illustrative purposes only, photo shows the Wal-Mart parking lot in Hurricane, Utah, March 28, 2017 | Photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

Officers responded to a report Saturday of retail theft at Walmart on 3400 West in Hurricane shortly after 4 p.m., according to charging documents filed in support of the arrests. 

Officers learned two women reportedly were seen leaving the store without paying for the items. Police also were given a description of the suspects’ vehicle. 

An officer spotted the vehicle and began trailing it with emergency lights activated. The driver swerved onto the shoulder of the roadway to pass another vehicle as it continued north along North 3400 West. After traveling through a number of streets, with the officer close behind, the driver pulled over on North 3380 West. 

While speaking to one of the occupants, Vanessa Marisela Garcia, 36, of Riverside, California, the officer noticed that both women matched the description of the suspects reportedly involved in the theft at Walmart. The backseat passenger was then identified as Makala Jewel Lepage, 35, of Hesperia, in Southern California. 

When asked, the pair told the officer they paid for all of the items before leaving the store and denied stealing anything from the business. The report also states that Lepage told police she used an appl on her cellphone to pay for the merchandise and showed the officer the receipt on the phone. 

When the officer asked to see the receipt again to check the timestamp, the suspect said she was unable to retrieve the receipt but could get that information if they could return to the store. 

Upon their return, officers spoke to the loss prevention manager who said one of the agents followed the pair around the store as the women collected a number of items that were placed in the car, and then they proceeded to leave the self-checkout without scanning or paying for the merchandise. 

Lepage continued to search for the receipt on her cell phone but was only able to retrieve one receipt for the purchase of a birthday card from earlier that same day, “and no other receipt was located,” the officer noted.  

Investigators learned there was video footage that showed the suspects leaving the store without paying for the items that combined, were valued at more than $500. The pair was taken into custody by police on suspected misdemeanor retail theft.  

While the Hurricane incident was still active, officers in Washington City were dispatched to the Walmart store on Telegraph Street on a retail theft involving two suspects who walked away from the store without paying “for a cart full” of items, according to charging documents filed with the courts. 

Officers arrived at the store to learn the alleged theft involved two women who were seen getting into a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck following the incident.

Flags fly at the Washington City Police Department, Washington City, Utah, March 21, 2023 | Photo by Vin Cappiello, St. George News

Surveillance footage captured one of the suspects inserting a paper card into the point-of-sale machine to pay for the items, and then she pressed her phone against the scanner which flashed a message that the payment was denied. 

Neither suspect “actually even attempted to scan any of the items in the cart,” the officer wrote, and then the pair was seen pushing the cart out of the store, where they entered the pickup truck with California plates. The employee also provided officers with the license plate number.  

While officers in Washington City were still searching for the suspects reportedly involved in the theft on Telegraph, they learned of the incident unfolding in Hurricane that resulted in the arrest of two suspects that matched the description of the pair they were looking for.

When Washington City officers responded to the scene of the Hurricane arrest they positively identified both women as the pair that was seen on the store’s surveillance footage on Telegraph Street.

Both suspects were then transported to jail in Washington County on the misdemeanor theft charge, and then later, one third-degree felony count of retail theft was added in connection with the alleged theft in Washington City. 

The following day, Garcia was released after posting a $5,000 bond, while Lepage was released on her own recognizance. The case is under review by the Washington County Attorney’s Office at this time. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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