An Albuquerque woman is accused of enlisting her children to help steal more than $8,000 in flowers and plants from outside Albertsons grocery stores dozens of times over the course of a year in Northeast Albuquerque.
Authorities said Lovelea Degeer then sold the stolen plants on Facebook, in garage sales and on display in front of her northeast-area home.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit arrested the 36-year-old woman and her boyfriend, Jayson Morales, 41, on Wednesday.
APD spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins said authorities seized two guns, $1,500 in stolen goods, $3,300 in cash and “numerous items of drug paraphernalia” from Degeer’s home during the arrest.
She is charged with 19 counts of shoplifting, six counts of child abuse and seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, among other charges, in connection with the plant-centered crime spree.
Morales is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Atkins said Morales was currently on probation, “which was ultimately revoked due to his involvement with Degeer.”
Court records for that revocation could not be found and, although Atkins said he assisted Degeer in 2022 thefts, Morales has not yet been charged in the alleged crimes.
The pair have been booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Degeer was awaiting trial in a Sept. 23 DWI arrest in which, according to court records, she was found passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle in Northeast Albuquerque and blew above the presumed level of intoxication.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:
In April 2021, the Albertsons asset protection office took notice of a woman, her two children and an unidentified man stealing flowers and plants from the displays out front of multiple stores. Degeer, her 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter were later identified as the trio.
Police said that, from April 11, 2021, to Sept. 14, 2022, Degeer, often accompanied by her children, stole plants from Albertsons on at least 23 occasions – sometimes making off with more than $500 worth of plants. Authorities said they identified more cases involving Degeer, but the evidence was “not sufficient.”
Degeer targeted Albertsons stores on Wyoming, Academy, Ventura, Eubank and Lomas.
In the thefts, Degeer would pull her car up to the display and she, her children and the unidentified man would load plants into the car, often ignoring employees, security or customers who tried to stop them.
During one incident, Degeer’s daughter hesitated when a customer passed by, but her mother, who had not stopped loading plants into the car, motioned her daughter to continue.
“This encouragement caused (Degeer’s daughter) to ignore her conscience and she quickly stepped out of the vehicle to help her mother again,” according to the complaint.
Albertsons removed its floral displays from outside the stores due to the losses, which “proved to be helpful,” but, in September, corporate officials advised that the plants needed to be “displayed as before.”
Within a week of displaying the plants, according to police, Degeer was back to stealing the plants from the storefront displays.
Police said Degeer used Facebook Marketplace to sell the plants under market value and with the Albertsons barcodes still visible. She also put the stolen plants on display for sale in front of her house and had garage sales.
Authorities said Degeer appeared to be unemployed and has had no listed work history in several years.
“She rarely left her residence unless it was to replenish her plants; thus, it appeared Degeer supports herself and her children solely through retail crime,” according to the complaint. “… If left to her own devices, and without specific intervention or appropriate prohibitive measures, Degeer will continue this crime spree into perpetuity.”