A woman is accused in more than a dozen burglaries of nail salons, cafes and other businesses around Albuquerque over the past few months — break-ins that attracted notice for the perpetrator’s habit of cutting out windows to evade alarms.
Kellie Shugart, 40, is charged with more than a dozen counts each of commercial burglary, larceny from $250 to over $2,500, criminal damage to property and conspiracy as well as three counts of tampering with evidence in the incidents that spanned from May 7 to Aug. 3.
Shugart was arrested Wednesday after a SWAT standoff near Louisiana and Montgomery NE and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center. It is unclear if she has an attorney.
Rebecca Atkins, an Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman, said Shugart’s arrest was one of 16 during a two-day operation targeting shoplifting and other retail crime. Of those, she said, eight were arrested for misdemeanor shoplifting and six for felony shoplifting.
Atkins said some of those arrested also tried to run from police, had drugs on them or had outstanding felony or misdemeanor warrants.
She said police also recovered $4,500 in stolen merchandise during the operation and returned it to the businesses.
“I am incredibly proud of all of our units who are working tirelessly to get repeat offenders off the streets through our organized retail crime initiative,” Police Chief Harold Medina said.
According to court records, Shugart was arrested on Aug. 4 when she was allegedly caught trying to break into the Seven Clover Dispensary in Nob Hill. Police said they found a knife, hammer, methamphetamine and fentanyl on Shugart.
Shugart was released the next day but, Atkins said, APD was already building a much bigger case against her that spanned months.
The first incident was on May 7, when two people cut a hole in the fence of a business in Northeast Albuquerque and stole a pressure washer, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
Over the next few months, detectives noticed an “unusually high amount” of commercial burglaries with “a distinct and similar method of entry.” Police said that included cutting the entire window out of the targeted business to avoid glass-break alarms. Also seen were a silver Subaru hatchback and a thin woman with long red hair.
Officers traced the hatchback to Shugart and she was identified in surveillance footage of numerous burglaries, according to court records. Police said Shugart often showed her face and had one or more accomplices during the incidents, sometimes making off with up to $14,000 worth of merchandise.
Shugart sometimes pretended to be a “professional cleaner or employee,” pulling a broom and cleaning supplies out of her car — even sweeping the area — during a burglary, according to court records. She would sometimes remove the glass with a knife and suction tool, often taking the entire glass pane with her when she left.
Police said during a July 9 burglary at Flying Star in Nob Hill, Shugart and another woman stole a register with no cash in it.
Over the investigation, detectives became “extremely familiar” with Shugart’s description and mannerisms and put a GPS tracker on her car in late July. Police said Shugart began using a truck in burglaries afterward, stealing laptops from Central New Mexico Community College and vehicle parts from an auto business.
After she was caught trying to break into the Nob Hill dispensary, detectives tried to speak with Shugart, according to court records. She told them, “No, not without my attorney.”
“It should be emphasized, there were approximately fifty additional commercial burglary reports within the past two months where the method of entry was removing or breaking a window … but insufficient evidence prevented detectives from identifying a suspect or vehicle,” according to the complaint. “Detectives continue to receive new reports of window removal burglaries on a regular basis.”