Jerry Biggs, Walgreens, Director - Organized Retail Crime Division
CHICAGO--(ENEWSPF)--May 12, 2011. Ten people have been charged in
connection with a year-long investigation into organized retail
theft and LINK card fraud Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Thursday.
"Operation Broken LINK" targeted suburban convenience stores engaged
in illegal practices involving the Electronic Benefit Transfer cards
known in Illinois as "LINK." Over the course of the investigation,
the Cook County Sheriff's Office worked with the United States
Department of Agriculture's Office of the Inspector General to
identify vendors trading LINK benefits for cash, and dealing in
The Cook County Sheriff's Office first developed intelligence
regarding the LINK card fraud in May 2010. Detectives were able to
identify a number of stores in the city and suburbs that were giving
customers cash back on their LINK cards in violation of USDA rules.
In addition, many of these same stores were trafficking in stolen
goods -- merchandise taken from the shelves of retailers like
Walgreens and resold to impoverished customers for five times the
Through the use of undercover investigators, Cook County Sheriff's
Police detectives and USDA agents methodically gained the confidence
of owners and clerks at the target stores who were engaged in the
illegal practices. Utilizing LINK cards provided by the USDA,
undercover agents conducted monitored transactions at the
businesses, regularly obtaining cash back and purchasing illicit
items on the cards.
Stores identified as committing ongoing violations were: Convenient
Food Mart on the 1000 block of 25th St., Bellwood, Convenient Food
Mart on the 1000 block of 25th St., Bellwood, Sam's Pantry on the
3200 block of St. Charles Rd., Bellwood, LNR Family Store (formerly
Alqud's) on the 1000 block of South 5th Ave., Maywood, and Lox Food
& Liquor on the 1800 block of St. Charles Rd., Bellwood.
Detectives identified similar patterns and practices of LINK card
fraud and retail theft common to most of the vendors. Undercover
agents would bring purportedly "stolen" merchandise to the
establishments and ask for money in exchange. Of particular interest
to the store owners were items such as razors and over-the-counter
pharmaceuticals. The vendors would pay the seller a small fraction
of the retail value of the item, then resell it in the store for
five times the original cost. Some stores kept log books near the
register to keep track of the money given to LINK recipients and the
amount charged to each card.
On one occasion, an undercover investigator entered Sam's Pantry in
Bellwood with a plastic bag containing "stolen" goods from
Walgreens. The owner purchased three packages of Mach3 razors from
the undercover for $3.00. The total retail value of the packages is
$77.97. In addition, the undercover requested a "one-for-one"
transaction in the amount of $40.00, which means an even split of
cash from a fake transaction. The owner gave the undercover the
agreed-upon cash back, but then swiped the LINK card two times,
doubling his take, thinking the undercover wouldn't know.
Vendors regularly added $20.00 or more "fees" for cash back
transactions in order to increase their own profits. Based on their
LINK transactions, vendors r