VENTURA COUNTY — Deputies arrested two women after they reportedly pepper-sprayed a dollar store employee while stealing laundry detergent and other toiletries; investigators said the products are being traded on the street for cash and drugs as part of a recent trend.
Kayla Raelynn Gularte, 21, and Kathryn Valencia Weaver, 22, were arrested in connection with the shoplifting-turned robbery Friday afternoon, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and county booking records. They are also suspected in similar thefts in Fillmore and in Santa Barbara County earlier in the week.
The women showed up at the store and tried to leave without paying for items, including laundry detergent, women’s underwear, razors and other toiletries, Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Vince Alvarez said in a written statement. A store employee confronted them in the parking lot.
“When contacted, Gularte sprayed the employee in the face with pepper spray and assaulted him in order to escape,” Alvarez said. “Gularte ran to the parking lot where Weaver was waiting in a getaway car.”
Deputies spotted a car matching the description of the one used in the crime and pulled it over, he said.
“A search of the car revealed nearly 100 items that appeared to be stolen. Deputies recovered the stolen goods from Dollar General, along with additional laundry soap, women’s undergarments, razors, and fragrances,” he said.
The arrest highlights an emerging trend of laundry detergent thefts throughout the region, Alvarez explained. The household item is being used as a currency.
“Investigators discovered that the popular and recognizable laundry detergents are being stolen and traded on the street for cash and/or drugs,” he said.
Gularte was booked on suspicion of robbery, conspiracy, illegal use of tear gas and child endangerment, according to county booking records. It was not clear Sunday whether a child was present during the alleged crimes.
Weaver was booked on suspicion of shoplifting and conspiracy, records show.
Bail for Gularte was set at $105,000, while Weaver’s bail was set at $50,000. Both were scheduled to appear in Ventura County Superior Court Tuesday.