Berkeley police catch 'prolific' North Face retail theft suspect

Maljanae Williams was part of an "organized retail theft crew" in San Francisco known as the Rainbow Crew, according to BPD.

Berkeley police catch 'prolific' North Face retail theft suspect
The North Face Outlet in Berkeley. Google Street View

A woman who took more than $54,000 in clothing from the Berkeley North Face Outlet is in jail this week after a months-long investigation, authorities say.

Berkeley police linked 30-year-old Maljanae Williams to five thefts at the Berkeley North Face Outlet dating back more than a year, court papers show.

Each time, Officer Matt Yee wrote, Williams went into North Face, at 1238 Fifth St., "and proceeded to commit grab and run style thefts of merchandise" with one to three other women. They often wore masks.

Yee wrote that Williams was part of an "organized retail theft crew" in San Francisco known as the Rainbow Crew. He described Williams as "prolific."

In court papers, Yee called Williams a "ringleader" for the Rainbow Crew and wrote that he had previously investigated her in San Francisco, linking her to more than 50 cases "spanning multiple jurisdictions, counties, and states."

That investigation in 2016 led to a 30-count felony indictment involving 13 separate incidents, he wrote.

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According to Berkeley police, Williams used her own car, a black Volkswagen sedan, in several of the commercial burglaries at the Berkeley North Face Outlet.

In addition to the car, police also used surveillance footage, vehicle tracker and cellphone data, and seized clothing to help make the case.

Police say the first incident involving the group at the Berkeley North Face Outlet took place Feb. 23, 2023, when Williams and two other people took $4,500 in jackets from the store without paying for them.

Then, in October, according to charging papers, three women took nearly $16,000 in jackets and sweaters from the Berkeley North Face.

They left in Williams' black Volkswagen, which SFPD later found abandoned, BPD wrote. Police found items from North Face in the car when they searched it.

Read more about crime in Berkeley.

In December, three women grabbed 21 jackets worth $13,000 from the Berkeley North Face store. Again, they left in the black Volkswagen registered to Williams, according to court papers.

On Jan. 10, two women went into North Face and took nearly 30 jackets worth about $9,500, according to BPD. They fled in the same black Volkswagen.

When officers later searched Williams' phone, BPD found texts related to the North Face theft that day.

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Police spotted the getaway car but could not chase it because of BPD’s vehicle pursuit policy.

Finally, on Jan. 20, four women stole 34 jackets worth more than $12,000 from the Berkeley North Face, BPD said.

The group fled in the same Volkswagen, which police had started tracking earlier that month.

According to charging papers, police have also linked Williams to commercial burglaries this year at high-end clothing stores in San Francisco.

Berkeley police arrested Williams on March 26 at her apartment in San Francisco.

Maljanae Williams. BPD

On Thursday, the Alameda County district attorney's office charged her with nine felonies, including several counts of organized retail theft, according to charging papers.

Prior felony convictions include grand theft and burglary in 2017 and robbery in 2019, according to court papers.

Williams entered not-guilty pleas Friday.

As of this week, she remains in custody with a combined bail of $400,000 related to four different cases, according to booking records online.

Williams is scheduled for a preliminary hearing April 12 at Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Read more about public safety in northwest Berkeley and other Berkeley neighborhoods.

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