Allen Russell went to Bloomingdale's at Stanford Shopping Center on Tuesday and allegedly stole a $5,000 watch.
He came back to the shopping center on Wednesday with three other people and allegedly tried to open an account at Macy's under a false name and buy a $3,000 ring.
But security cameras had seen him the day before and the police were ready.
"There are a zillion security cameras in there," Palo Alto Police Detective Brian Philip said. "But these guys get bold and come back."
Russell, 61, was arrested without incident, as were Raymond Moore, 58, Herman Brian Stewart, 57, and Liller Johnson, 45.
All four were charged with parole violations and face various charges of burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, identity theft and forgery, Philip said.
Bloomingale's, Macy's and Nordstrom were the stores where the four attempted burglary or tried to buy items by opening accounts under false names.