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$25,000 worth of cigarettes stolen from grocery store

November 06, 2016

Two men were arrested after hundreds of cartons and individual packs of cigarettes were stolen from a Winn-Dixie store in Marion County.

Miguel Nales, 50, and Juan Velez, 45, confessed to their involvement, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office.



Detectives said Nales stole 275 cartons and 606 individual packs of cigarettes from the store located on US-441 and SR-326 in Ocala since October 2015. The cigarettes are valued at more than $25,000.

Nales is not an employee but a sub-contractor who works overnight at Winn-Dixie cleaning its floors. Detectives said he used a hidden compartment in a crate he brought with him to conceal 6-10 cartons of cigarettes each night he worked.

Burglar steals $17K worth of cigarettes from grocery store

May 20, 2017


Memphis police are searching for the person responsible for a burglary at a grocery store in the 1000 block of South Third Street.

Police said the suspect broke into the business by breaking through the cinder block wall on the north side of the building, taking an estimated $17,000 worth of cigarettes.

The incident happened between Thursday at 11 p.m. and Friday at 7:15 a.m.

Security video captured the suspect during the burglary. The suspect wore gloves, brought trash bags with him, and appeared to be speaking to an accomplice outside through the opening.

No arrests have been made at this time. This is an ongoing investigation.

Anyone with information about this incident should call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH.

Burglar loads up garbage bag with cigarettes from grocery store

November 17, 2016

A bold thief loaded cartons of cigarettes into a black garbage bag in a late-afternoon smash-and-grab burglary of an Algiers grocery store.

The NOPD says the man smashed the front window of the Winn Dixie in the 3000 block of Holiday drive at 4:19 p.m. on November 16. 

The burglar went inside and loaded cartons of cigarettes into the bag, then took off. 

Investigators are hoping someone will recognize the thief in an image taken from surveillance video. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Tianay Marshall or any Fourth District detective at 504-658-6040. 

Cigarette burglars pry doors open at Kroger store in W. Houston

March 09, 2016


Police say a group of thieves got away with cigarettes and other tobacco products during a burglary at a west Houston grocery store.

It happened at the Kroger store on Westheimer near Briarpark Drive.

Houston Police say overnight stockers heard the doors being pried open. That is when several men with masks ran into the tobacco area, loading up on cigarettes and other products, according to police.

The burglars escaped in a black-colored Dodge and a silver vehicle.

Police say this crime is similar to others committed in the Houston area in the last few weeks.

No one was injured, however, the door was damaged after being pried open.

Modern mafia: Shoplifting gangs target Colorado stores

February 09, 2012

DENVER - You may think of shoplifting as a petty crime, stealing small items for personal gain, but that's not what this story is about. This is about organized retail crime - gangs of shoplifters who are targeting Colorado stores.


The losses are staggering - half a billion dollars a year in Colorado alone and $30 to $50 billion nationwide.

On Friday, a Colorado lawmaker will lay out his plan to change the law and crack down on these shoplifting gangs.

Rep. Mark Barker (R-Colorado Springs) is going to introduce a bill in the State House that will crack down on organized retail crime and give law enforcement more options.


"Instead of taking each offense one at a time and dealing with them separately, it allows them to aggregate the offenses over the state and perhaps even over multiple states and charge them under the organized crime act," Barker said.


The bill will also crack down on the stores that knowingly buy stolen goods and resell them. It will also have a provision to do more education of law enforcement about why organized shoplifting is a crime worth fighting.


Professional shoplifters are known in the retail industry as "boosters." The items you pay for are the same items they steal.


From health and beauty products to baby formula to batteries, there's a long list of items preferred by boosters.

9Wants to Know interviewed an organized retail crime investigator, who we'll call Tom. He cannot reveal his true identity because he is actively involved in undercover investigations.


"We've seen them steal up to $2,000 or $3,000 within minutes," Tom said.


Tom is not a police officer. He works for a major grocery chain. All the big stores hire people like Tom, who often operate like undercover cops.

It can be a dangerous job.

"I know people who've been stabbed or had a gun pulled on them, or had them try to run over them with a car," Tom said.


Already this year, there have been two incidents in Colorado where shoplifters blasted guards with pepper spray while making a run for it.


Lakewood Police Chief Kevin Paletta calls it a troubling sign organized retail crime rings are becoming more brazen.


"They're desperate. Their livelihood depends on it. Many times their life may depend on it," Paletta said.


Paletta was on a task force to fight organized retail crime. He says once an item is stolen, it's tough to trace.


Stolen items are sometimes sold online, or at smaller stores and shops that purchase stolen goods from boosters.


"Everybody is the victim in these types of cases. There are several outlets where these items wind up. Flea markets are an example," Paletta said.


The Mile High Marketplace in Adams County is the largest year-round outdoor flea market in Colorado. Vendors caught selling stolen or counterfeit items are kicked out and reported to the authorities.


"Many very legitimate people are selling items at the flea market so somebody who is doing it illegally can sort of blend in with the people who are there legitimately," Paletta said.


9Wants to Know went undercover with Tom and another investigator as they searched for stolen items.


They bought two brand-name face lotions from two different vendors for a fraction of the retail price. The boxes still had security stickers, one from a Safeway in Arvada, and the other from a CVS in Florida.


"We strongly believe these could be stolen products," Tom said.


Both vendors denied selling stolen items.

"When you're opening something out of a package that's selling for one tenth of what it would at a store, there is a high likelihood that it is stolen," Paletta said.


One of the vendors, Yonoea Stadler, provided 9Wants to Know with a Safeway receipt that shows lotion was purchased from the store in 2007.


Stadler says most of her products come from a wholesaler who buys in bulk what mainstream stores can no longer sell.


"A lot of them are good way beyond their actual expiration date," Stadler said.


Stadler says she has been approached to buy stolen items, but always says no.


"It's hurting other legitimate vendors out there. It causes prices to go up for everybody," Stadler said.


Proving an item was stolen is difficult, unless you have video of an actual sale taking place.


9Wants to Know obtained video of an organized retail crime investigator posing as a shoplifter and selling a bag full of items to a convenience store near the State Capitol.


"I have two bottles of shampoo. I've got six things of deodorant, and I've got two of these. I got to pay my rent. I'm poor. This is like $100 worth of stuff," the female investigator said in the undercover video.


The camera then shows a clerk handing over $15 cash


9Wants to Know Investigative Reporter Will Ripley went to the store and a different clerk told him they're not allowed to buy stolen products. When Ripley informed the clerk there was video of a store employee paying cash to an undercover agent posing as a booster, the clerk said it is not a regular practice to buy stolen items.


"We're not allowed to. If somebody does, he gets fired right away," the clerk said.


Paletta says shoplifting been tied to violent crimes like assault, as well as human trafficking and drug smuggling.


"It's many times a gateway crime to much larger criminal enterprises," Paletta said.


9Wants to Know obtained federal court documents from a case out of Texas where an organized retail crime ring was sending money to the Middle East.


"It had ties, solid ties, back to Hezbollah," Tom said.


In 2003, 18 arrest warrants were issued, 11 convenience stores were closed, and massive amounts of merchandise were seized by investigators. They also recovered nearly a quarter million dollars in cash.


The leader of the ring, Mohammed Khalil Ghali, is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence.


You may not even realize you're buying stolen merchandise - or what your money is paying for.


"We have seen their behavior escalate. You're actually supporting and sustaining this criminal enterprise," Paletta said.


The global crime is on the rise here in Colorado.


Lakewood Police recently broke up an organized retail crime ring from El Salvador and they're investigating ties to drug and human trafficking. 


The legislation that will be introduced Friday would allow law enforcement to group these crimes together, possibly even charge them under the organized crime act.


Retailers and investigators say, until these shoplifting rings are taken more seriously, their crimes will only get worse.

Why Are Criminals Stealing Tide Detergent and Using It for Money?

March 18, 2012

There's a new liquid asset in town. It's blue, it's viscous, and it's versatile: You can pour it in a machine with your clothes, or sell it for pot. Meet the weird and wild world of Tide bandits.

If recent media reports are to be believed, there's a new fad sweeping America's criminal underworld: detergent theft. 

Earlier this week, The Daily's M.L. Nestel wrote that Tide liquid laundry soap appears to have become a favorite target of shoplifters around the nation, who are jacking the product from store shelves in bulk, then selling it on the black market. Thieves simply load up shopping carts full of the bright orange bottles, then bolt out the door. One con in Minnesota appears to have liberated $25,000 worth of the stuff in 15 months before he was eventually arrested. Meanwhile, police in Prince George's County, Maryland have taken to calling Tide "liquid gold." According to the Associated Press, officers there say that drug dealers have started urging their clientele to pay with Tide bottles in lieu of cash. 

A alleged quote from one dealer: "I'm out of marijuana right now, but when I get re-upped I'll hook you up if you can get me 15 bottles of Tide."


Dialogue from The Wire, this is not. However, there may be something deeper going on here than a bunch of quirky crooks. It's possible we're getting a peak into the world of organized retail crime -- or ORC, as the government likes to abbreviate it.*


"Each year, organized groups of professional shoplifters steal or fraudulently obtain billions of dollars in retail merchandise," says the Government Accountability Office, which released a report on the epidemic last June. Criminals tend to pilfer products that are small and expensive -- razor blades, infant formula, gift cards, teeth whitening products, cosmetics, and over-the-counter medications, for instance. While it's a little bulkier than most of the items on that list, a bottle of Tide would seem to make a good target because it's a leading brand, everybody needs it, and it's pricey; one bottle can cost up to $20 retail, and it allegedly sells on the street for between $5 and $10. 

According to the GAO, ORC cartels are usually divided in two -- there are "boosters," who actually go out and steal the merchandise, and "fences," who sell it. While I'm dubious that our government's researchers are really up on their street slang, they do provide a handy chart, which breaks down the structure of your average ORC outfit. 


There are three ways the merchandise tends to get sold off. Fencers can (1) sell the goods at pawn shops or flea markets, (2) return it to the store for a refund, or (3) set up shop on a website like eBay. In recent years, the online auction house has actually been working with law enforcement and retailers to try and clamp down on criminal activity. 

It's difficult to put a hard dollar figure on the amount of merchandise stolen by these groups. Estimates range between $15 and nearly $40 billion a year, but the GAO found that most of those guesses were based on vague, highly unreliable data. Merchants say it's increasingly taking a toll on their businesses, however. In a recent survey by the National Retail Foundation, 95 percent of companies said they had been victimized by ORC during the last year, and 64 percent had "seen an increase" in ORC during the same time frame. 

Retailers have spent years pushing states and Congress for legislation targeting ORC syndicates, including laws that would make it easier to bring felony prosecutions against their members and lay stiffer penalties on criminals who are convicted. They've have had more luck on the local level than on Capitol Hill. However, the FBI is known to get involved in particularly large cases, particularly if they involve goods that get transported over state lines.  

From the news stories out there so far, there's no indication that the detergent thefts are the product of a specific organized effort. But when drug dealers and work-a-day crooks in different corners of the country start stealing thousands of dollars worth of a product, it usually isn't entirely by chance. For a someone tied into the right criminal network, Tide would make for a pretty good liquid asset. 

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