Pair gets seven months in jail for mall theft

By Dan Holtz
Leader-Telegram staff

A man and woman, who police believe are part of a theft operation targeting shopping malls throughout the Midwest, will spend seven months in jail for theft-related charges involving a Nov. 7 incident at Oakwood Mall.

Gisella P. Mejias, 27, and Leonardo Rojas-Railen, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Eau Claire County Court to a misdemeanor count of retail theft and a felony count of receiving stolen property.

Two additional counts of misdemeanor theft were dismissed. A misdemeanor count of attempted battery against Rojas-Railen was also dismissed.

The pair will get credit for the time they've spent in jail since their Nov. 7 arrest. They have been held in the Eau Claire County Jail on $150,000 cash bails.

All stolen items found by police in the possession of Mejias and Rojas-Railen or in their vehicle will be returned to their identifiable owners. Any items whose owners cannot be identified will be forfeited to the state.

Federal authorities intend to deport Rojas-Railen to Mexico, Eau Claire defense attorney Michael Cohen said.

Mejias will likely be sent to California after her jail sentence is served, where there is a warrant for her arrest, Eau Claire County Assistant District Attorney Gary Schuster said.

The pair, who police call professional retail thieves, were arrested Nov. 7 after authorities said they tried to perform a retail theft scam on a clerk at the Hollister store in Oakwood Mall.

According to Eau Claire police and the criminal complaint:

Mejias and Rojas-Railen were traveling in a vehicle rented at an Indiana airport.

Inside the vehicle were maps of larger Midwestern cities, with locations highlighted and listings of retail stores and malls in those cities. New merchandise, still containing store tags totaling more than $12,000, was in the vehicle.

Police also found "booster bags" in the vehicle, which are specifically designed bags bearing store labels. The bags are modified with secret compartments and security-device-defeating linings.

The vehicle contained ledgers that confirmed the suspects were involved in felony-level retail theft for a lengthy period of time.

Mejias and Rojas-Railen appear to have been packaging stolen property and shipping it to an address in California. ... JOBOT3QJCD