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Thieves Go on Luxury Sunglasses Spree

Eyewear stores in Lake Forest, Irvine and Brea are hit by predawn burglaries. Brea police arrest suspects after a short pursuit.

Burglars hit a Lake Forest eyewear store early Wednesday morning, absconding with sunglasses worth thousands of dollars, authorities said.

Eyewear stores in Irvine and Brea were also hit, although it was unclear if the same thieves were responsible. Brea police later arrested three men at the end of a short pursuit after the break-in there.

At least one burglar broke into Eyestyles store on Lake Forest Drive at about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday and stole all the store's Chrome Hearts brand glasses, manager Michael Sellaroli said.

At retail, the sunglasses were worth "tens of thousands," he said.

Video surveillance showed one man breaking into the store, grabbing the glasses and leaving in three minutes, he said.

The thief set off the burglar alarm, but police arrived one or two minutes after he left, Sellaroli said.

Eyestyles remained open for business Wednesday after replacing the broken door with a wooden panel. A glass panel on the side of the store was also smashed but not shattered.

It's the third time in four years the store has been burglarized, Sellaroli said. Thieves also stole Chrome Hearts sunglasses from Eyestyles in 2008 and 2009.

The merchandise was never recovered. Burglars sell their ill-gotten gains online at a discount, Sellaroli said.

"People don't understand they're supporting theft" when they buy heavily discounted luxury goods online, he said.

About 10 minutes before the Lake Forest burglary, thieves hit an Irvine LensCrafters at 13662 Jamboree Road in The Market Place shopping area, officials said. Those burglars made off with hundreds of glasses and sunglasses, including at least 400 high-end Maui Jim models, which can run into the $300 range, according to reports from a news photographer who spoke with the store manager.

The LensCrafters manager said the burglars got into the store by smashing through its glass facade.

Shortly after police put out a countywide alert on the Irvine burglary, the alarm at Eyestyles in Lake Forest went off, according to sheriff's Lt. Pat Higa.

Investigators have noted similarities between the crimes, but no link has been confirmed, Higa said.

Next, around 2 a.m., a Brea police officer who heard a broadcast about the Irvine burglary checked on the LensCrafters in his jurisdiction. He noticed broken glass in the front of the store and saw a black Volkswagen Jetta speeding from the scene, said Brea police Lt. Peter Rodriguez.

Two suspects got out of the car, smashed the store window and grabbed sunglasses, Brea police Sgt. Jim Griffin said.

The officer chased the car north on the 57 Freeway and the suspects finally stopped in Diamond Bar, where they were taken into custody, Rodriguez said.

The chase ended in Diamond Bar, when the suspects stopped and one man jumped out while the other two waited to be arrested, Griffin said. With help from Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, police rounded up the third suspect minutes later, Griffin said.

The three suspects, who were booked on suspicion of burglary, were identified as Justin Valdepena, 23, of Whittier, Kyle Ochoa, 19, of Claremont, and Thomas Mackinlay, 23, of Hacienda Heights, Griffin said.

A "substantial number of sunglasses" were found in the suspects' Jetta, Griffin said.

—City News Service contributed to this story.

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