CARLSBAD — A 32-year-old woman was arrested Sept. 19 by Carlsbad police in connection with a rash of thefts at area gyms after a traffic stop, according to Lt. Kevin Lehan.
The woman, Mayra Vasquez of Carlsbad, is charged with dozens of crimes including possession of stolen property in what Lehan described as a series of robberies from December 2018 to September.
He also said Vasquez went to the gyms, found unlocked lockers and stole items such as passports, money and other personal affects. In addition, Vasquez allegedly took the car keys from the lockers and rummaged through the victims’ cars.
“It was rampant all over the place,” Lehan said.
Vasquez appears to have targeted dozens of gyms from Murrieta to Chula Vista including 24-Hour Fitness, L.A. Fitness, Chuze and Equinox. Lehan said Vasquez also targeted other facilities with gyms such as Tri-City Wellness.
Lehan said Vasquez allegedly targeted lockers without locks or safety mechanisms. She would then steal anything of value, including car keys, and search for more property to take.
In total, 56 victims have come forward, although Lehan said the number is likely higher. Vasquez is currently being held in the Vista Detention Center on $500,000.44 bond.
While Vasquez was arrested, Lehan said authorities are also investigating other evidence received by law enforcement.
“We’re still tying this altogether,” he added. “With that many victims over, that many cases over that amount of time, we got a lot going on.”
Lehan said the Carlsbad Police Department was investigating at least 20 cases in Carlsbad and 30 countywide.
He said the investigation led authorities to believe Vasquez, who was identified as a potential suspect, was living in south Carlsbad. Once police identified her vehicle, they made a traffic stop in Encinitas and found her vehicle filled with suspected stole items matching authorities’ database of reported stolen property, Lehan added.
“She had bags upon bags of identification for other people, on the floorboards she had IDs strewn about,” he said. “She’s got IDs, passports, credit cards from dozens and dozens of people in her vehicle. They (officers) were actually able to pull up property that had been specifically identified and entered into the system and that’s why that night it was easy to get her into jail.”
The police department is still reaching out to victims and is also looking for other potential victims from other cases. Those cases, Lehan said, involved car windows being smashed in the parking lots of gyms, cases authorities were at first not sure if they were connected because of different patterns.
“It was a different M.O. We didn’t know whether or not to connect her, but then we recovered property from some of those smash and grabs, which added to further investigation,” he said. “People are always hitting gyms. People wait and watch. We thought there are folks going around smashing windows, and there are folks going into the locker room and taking stuff out. We didn’t realize she was doing both of those things.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.