Covington police sort through piles of clothing reported stolen from Macy's department stores along the East Coast. The merchandise spilled onto I-20 last Friday after a police chase and wreck, authorities said.
Photo: Covington Police Department
Photo: Covington Police Department

High-speed chase, wreck in Georgia thwarts multistate shoplifting ring

A high-speed chase through three Georgia counties led to the discovery of more than $50,000 worth of clothing stolen from department stores along the East Coast, authorities said.

Georgia State Patrol troopers tried to stop a rented GMC Yukon for speeding on I-20 about 9 p.m. Friday, police said. The vehicle refused to stop, leading troopers on a chase through Morgan, Walton and Newton counties, authorities said.

The chase ended in Covington when a trooper positioned his vehicle behind the Yukon and struck it, causing the SUV to lose control near mile marker 92.

When the SUV wrecked, stolen merchandise from inside spilled onto the interstate, Covington police spokesman Officer Justin Stott said.

“Large amounts of clothing were thrown from the vehicle onto the side of I-20,” Stott said. “The merchandise still had tags and anti-theft devices on it.” 

Three men from New York were inside the vehicle at the time, authorities said. One of the men in the back seat was ejected from the SUV. The man, who was not wearing a seat belt, was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital, police said. The driver and passenger also suffered injuries in the wreck. They were taken to Atlanta Medical Center.

Covington police called in the Georgia Retailers Organized Crime Alliance and it was discovered the merchandise was stolen from Macy’s stores in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, Stott said. 

Three men were injured last week after leading Georgia State Patrol troopers on a high-speed chase through three counties, authorities said.
Photo: Covington Police Department

The driver of the Yukon, identified as 31-year-old Anthony Vasquez of Middle Village, N.Y., was charged with speeding, fleeing to elude, obstruction and serious injury by motor vehicle. His passengers, 32-year-old Joseph Varriga of Bronx, N.Y., and 24-year-old Brian Alvarez of Middle Village, are still in the hospital and have not been formally charged, Stott said.

All three will be charged with theft by receiving stolen property, Covington police said. 

Macy’s told police that last week’s incident was the second-largest recovery of the store’s stolen merchandise in the country this year.

“At the very least, it’s over ($50,000) or $60,000,” Stott said. “And that’s on the low side.”

Vasquez remains held without bond at the Newton County jail, records show. 

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