Amid a nationwide wave of Tide laundry detergent thefts, Orange County authorities confirmed Wednesday that a Vons in Mission Viejo also has seen the big brightly colored bottles stolen off its shelves.
Ronald Ledesma, 54, is being held on $1-million bail at Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana on 10 counts of related commercial burglary, authorities said.
A preliminary hearing is set for Tuesday, according to Orange County Dist. Atty. spokeswoman Roxi Sotomayor. The criminal complaint says Ledesma also has at least two “serious and violent” felony convictions.
In what authorities characterized as a bizarre series of events, Ledesma walked into the Vons on Feb. 7, headed straight to the detergent aisle and loaded a cart with nine bottles of the liquid formula. Then he allegedly strolled out the door without paying.
Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said Ledesma fled in a Ford Explorer after being confronted in the parking lot by a store manager. A short distance later he collided with an off-duty Orange County Fire Authority ambulance, injuring a paramedic.
Ledesma kept driving, Amormino said, but was followed by a witness who called authorities and kept them abreast of where the suspect was. Ledesma eventually was arrested near Jeronimo Road and Cherry Avenue in Lake Forest.
Amormino said that law enforcement is “somewhat baffled” by the Tide-stealing trend. He said Ledesma was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the theft, which he thinks could help explain the pattern of thefts.
“Apparently it’s used to sell on the street,” he said. “They probably get enough to feed small-scale drug habits.”
The big bottles can sell for as much as $20, and Amormino said Tide is the preferred brand because of its name recognition.
Some stores across the country have taken to wrapping anti-theft devices around the handles of the bottles, and Amormino joked that soon, vendors may need to lock the detergent inside alcohol cases.
“The way the world is,” he said, “you never know.”