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2011 Archives

Organized Retail Theft Sting Nabs 59 People in Chicago More than 50 professional shoplifters were arrested in an undercover operation targeting criminal crews before holiday shoppers hit the malls, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announced Sunday. The stings, which began in mid-October, were conducted in stand-alone stores in the suburbs, stores along Michigan Avenue and in shops at Orland Park's Orland Square Mall and Schaumburg's Woodfield Mall. The brazen crews of "boosters," or professional shoplifters, targeted by the investigation are sophisticated and organized, working in groups to steal electronics, razors, over-the-counter medicine, baby formula and brand-name clothing, authorities said. They carry tools to open boxes and line their bags with duct tape to prevent security sensors from activating. "This isn't just some teenager going out to shoplift one item," Alvarez said. "We're talking about big groups that are stealing large quantities of goods, fencing them, sending them elsewhere and making a lot of money off of it."

Speaking to reporters, Alvarez narrated as she played surveillance footage of shoplifters placing items into their pockets and dumping items into containers inside their shopping carts. "Right off the shelf and into the bag," she said. In one instance, a couple stealing a suit jacket shoved the item of clothing down the woman's pants.

Among the 59 charged was Phillip Mazurek, 65, of Skokie, who was caught Nov. 18 picking up a $5,000 crystal vase, placing it in a shopping bag and walking out of a Michigan Avenue boutique, Alvarez said. Mazurek, who has at least three former shoplifting convictions, was charged with felony retail theft. He is being held in the Cook County Jail without bond, according to the sheriff's website.

Authorities said they recovered tens of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise from the operation. "While this crime may not seem as significant as other violent crimes, it is important that we address it because it has a direct impact on consumers," Alvarez said of shoplifting. "It drives up consumer prices when retailers are forced to raise their prices because of significant losses due to theft." And the stolen products end up with fencing operations, where the products are resold "for significant untaxed profits," Alvarez said. Last year, the state of Illinois lost $77 million in tax revenue from goods stolen then resold, she said.

Organized shoplifting costs retailers nationwide an estimated $15 billion to $30 billion annually, according to the National Retail Federation. There are also consumer safety issues. For instance, products with expiration dates, such as over-the-counter medicine or baby formula, may end up in a dollar store or other purveyor of fenced merchandise and the expiration dates may not be heeded, Alvarez said. Authorities said the items or the profits may end up overseas, creating an international money-laundering operation. Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago, said his agency is currently investigating several such cases. (source


Participating Law Enforcement Participating Retailers

• U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
• Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agency
• U.S. Marshal’s Service
• Chicago Police Department
• Orland Park Police Department
• Schaumburg Police Department
• South Barrington Police Department

• Target
• JCPenney
• Sears
• Sam’s Club
• Walmart
• Limited Brands
• Victoria’s Secret
• The Gap
• Banana Republic
• Abercrombie
• Dominick’s
• Jewel
• Toys 'R' Us
• Meijer
• Macy’s

Police bust ORC ring hideout On Friday, Santa Fe police and Sheriff's deputies recovered almost $10,000 worth of stolen loot that they said was linked to big box stores including Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes and even Kmart. Detectives said the found some of the goods stashed inside a home in Santa Fe County and even more merchandise was stored in a trailer on the property. Deputy Chief Gillian Alessio said its part of an organized shoplifting network. Detectives believe they are skilled shoplifters who are armed with a shopping list of items to steal when they walk into the stores. "They have a list that is predetermined," Alessio said. "They contact a person or group of individuals whose job it is then to sell this merchandise on a black market." Alessio said the organized group could also be watching shoppers. "Be very cautious on how you do your shopping this year," Alessio said. "Don't keep any packages, presents, any items in the front seats or the back seats of cars where they can be observed. Police said the owner of the house was not there during the bust so no arrests have been made. (Source


ORC ring Leads Investigators To Money Laundering Scheme in Chattanooga. Detectives discovered that a group of individuals were working together to steal merchandise from area Wal-Marts, and attempting to return the stolen merchandise at different Wal-Mart stores. If the items were allowed to be returned, the suspects would transfer monies obtained from the store’s gift card and onto other Visa cards. What was first reported as a shoplifting theft at a Collegedale Wal-Mart soon led investigators to an ongoing money laundering scheme that stretched between Bradley and Hamilton counties, authorities said. Gene Auldin Cantrell and Danielle Lynn Thorne have been arrested for money laundering, and multiple theft and conspiracy related charges. More charges may be forthcoming from other jurisdictions. (Source

An identity theft ring of over 12 current and former waiters and their associates from NYC's top steakhouses busted for $1 million credit card. Targeting customers with high-limit credit cards restaurant workers used handheld scanners to copy credit card info and sent it to the leaders of the ring who would forge new credit cards and test them on taxis. If they worked they'd go on major shopping sprees and then sell the luxury brands items for cash. (Source

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