Berkeley police have arrested a man they believe was behind a slew of commercial burglaries and thefts at the REI store on San Pablo Avenue. Credit: Google Street View Credit: Google Street view

Alameda County prosecutors have charged two men in what police say was a seven-week series of thefts that cost the San Pablo Avenue REI store more than $16,000 worth of merchandise beginning Sept. 19.

Leon D. Krigbaum, 41, who has no listed address, is facing seven counts of second-degree commercial burglary, six of grand theft of personal property and one each of receiving stolen property and attempted grand theft of personal property. A second man, 68-year-old John Alvin Iles of Oakland, is facing one count each of second-degree commercial burglary, grand theft of personal property and receiving stolen property, according to court records.

Berkeley police arrested both men Nov. 8 in Oakland after they say they tracked Krigbaum from the scene of his last alleged heist.

Police said that Krigbaum admitted to some of the thefts and that he told officers that he sold stolen jackets at $25 apiece to buy crack, according to court records.

Krigbaum first went to the REI on Sept. 19 around 12:06 p.m., “grabbed approximately 8 REI jackets” and left in the passenger seat of a Mercedes “without making any attempt to purchase” the roughly $1,200 worth of merchandise, according to a declaration of probable cause against Krigbaum.

When Berkeley police circulated images of Krigbaum, at that time unidentified, on Oct. 3, an officer from another city was able to identify him, and REI staff were able to identify Krigbaum in a photo array, police said.

Two days later, on Oct. 5, Krigbaum and another unidentified person went to the store around 5:34 p.m., and Krigbaum began putting five jackets into a bag before a security guard tried to wrest them away, police said. After a “tug of war,” the security guard reclaimed the jackets, worth approximately $1,269, police said. The guard also identified Krigbaum in a lineup, police said.

Two weeks later, on Oct. 19, Krigbaum and another person went to the store around 10:06 a.m. “each grabbed a handful of jackets and ran out of the business without paying,” according to the declaration. The 26 jackets police say they took were worth $2,580. The second person was identified but, so far, is not facing any criminal charges in the incident, according to court records.

Krigbaum made off with another six jackets, worth $1,500, on Oct. 23, eight more worth $4,540 on Oct. 29, and an “armful” of jackets worth another $4,540 on Oct. 30, according to the declaration. REI staff identified him all three times in photo arrays, police said. On Oct. 23, police said, an unidentified second person was with Krigbaum.

Finally, on Nov. 8, Krigbaum took six more jackets worth $2,315, police said. “One of the stolen jackets had a GPS tracker hidden inside,” according to the declaration. Berkeley police officers “chased the tracker into Oakland,” finding Iles and Krigbaum at a Burger King at 4200 International Boulevard, according to the declaration.

Krigbaum was holding a stolen jacket when police arrived, and Iles had two stolen jackets in his car, police said. Police also found .36 grams of what they believed to be crack in Krigbaum’s pocket, they said. An REI staff member identified Krigbaum at the scene, police said. Officers took both men into custody.

Krigbaum was in custody at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in lieu of $80,000 bail as of Thursday afternoon, according to jail records. Police initially took Iles to Santa Rita, according to court records, but he was not named as in custody at the jail Thursday.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against the men Monday.

Attorneys for Krigbaum did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, representing Iles, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his case either.

Krigbaum is scheduled for a plea hearing on Nov. 28; Iles is scheduled to enter a plea the day after.

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Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...