Walgreens and CVS Teaming Together to Fight ORC
After a two-year investigation on the part
of Walgreens and CVS, this past Monday law enforcement authorities raided a
major warehouse in Houston that was the fencing operation for over 45
booster teams and 200 thieves that were operating nationwide. Stealing
products that would re-sell easily, some teams members were stealing $10k to
$20k a day and making over $5,000 to $7,000 a week themselves and shipping
their stolen merchandise down to Houston. Some teams were hitting stores
every 30 minutes supervised by the street gang MS 13. Mostly illegal
immigrants from Honduras, the ring leader Mohammad Zainaldin, a Palestinian,
had a small group managing this nationwide operation. After two years of
investigation and millions lost, they've been stopped.
With Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid
participating in the raid this week, this is a great example of team work and
how working together can make an impact.
Seven Charged in Interstate Theft and
Fencing Ring of Over-the-Counter Drugs
HOUSTON - A sealed indictment
charging several Houston area residents for their alleged involvement in an
interstate over-the-counter (OTC) drug theft and fencing ring as well as
structuring and money laundering was unsealed today following the arrest of
the seven charged, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today
along with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) acting Special Agent in
Charge John Connolly.
The 29-count indictment, returned on July 13, 2011, charges seven defendants
with conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce,
structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements, money
laundering and substantive counts of transporting stolen goods and
structuring as well as seeks to forfeit the interest of the defendants in
the illicitly obtained proceeds. Those charged include the alleged "fence,"
Mohammad Zainaldin, the owner of Quick Gas and Lube on Westheimer Road in
Houston, his girlfriend, Innessa Stafeyeva, who allegedly worked at the
warehouse where the stolen OTC merchandise was stored along with two
allegedly high level and three additional "boosters" – persons who steal the
goods ultimately delivered to the fence for re-sale. Zainladin, 33, was born
in the Palestinian territory and his girlfriend, Stafeyeva, 23, is a citizen
of Kazakhstan. Carlos Reyes Roque, 40, and Marcos Ascencio Perdomo, 35, both
alleged high level "boosters," and Irma Hernandez, 34, Ana Ramos, 30, and
Claudia Flores, 35, are all citizens of Honduras.
The indictment was unsealed today following the arrest of Zainladin,
Stafeyeva, Ramos and Flores. Zainladin and Flores were arrested at their
respective residences, while Stafeyeva and Ramos were taken into custody at
Zainladin's warehouse on Westpark Drive and HSI offices in Houston,
respectively. These four are expected to make their initial appearance
tomorrow before a U.S. Magistrate Judge at which time the government expects
to request the defendants remain in federal custody without bond pending
trial. Reyes-Roque and Perdomo are presently in federal custody on unrelated
criminal charges and are expected to appear in federal court for initial
appearances on these charges in the near future. Hernandez is today being
transferred from Department of Homeland Security administrative custody into
federal custody to face these charges and may make her initial appearance in
federal court as early as tomorrow.
The indictment accuses all seven defendants of conspiring together to steal
OTC medicine from retail pharmacies and other stores both in Texas and in
other states. The indictment alleges that thieves referred to as "boosters,"
allegedly used aluminum foil lined bags to steal the OTC from pharmacies and
retail stores. The "boosters" would ship the OTC to Zainladin during out of
state trips via FedEx or UPS to avoid detection by law enforcement during
routine traffic stops. According to allegations in the indictment, Zainladin
was the "fence" for the stolen merchandise and the leader of the
organization. Once Zainladin received the stolen OTC, he would pay the
boosters cash payments at his gas station. Zainladin would use bank accounts
to mask his illegal activity and would withdraw $10,000 and below, allegedly
avoiding bank reporting requirements, to pay his boosters.
Conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce and to
structure carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and/or a
$250,000 fine upon conviction. Conspiracy to launder proceeds of greater
than $10,000 from the alleged interstate transportation of stolen property
carries a maximum punishment of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine upon
conviction. Structuring financial transactions to avoid currency reporting
requirements carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine
upon conviction. Each count of transporting stolen goods and structuring
carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine
The charges are the result of an 12-month investigation conducted by
Homeland Security Investigations and the Houston Police Department – Major
Offenders Unit with the substantial assistance and cooperation of CVS and
Walgreens loss prevention divisions.
Actual photos of the fencing operation ...
confiscating the ring leaders' toys ...