A few CDs here, a pair of jeans there – maybe a cheap watch if an attendant isn’t being observant. These are the kinds of things most people would probably picture as items that are commonly the subject of shoplifting sprees. Often times though, it can be higher price items such as electronics, computer equipment, or high end toys. With the losses caused by shoplifting costing retailers millions and millions of dollars every single day security measures to prevent the loss of merchandise are more stringent than ever.
So surely a serial shoplifter would be caught before the damage they could due would get too severe, right? With the average shoplifter making off with merchandise valued at $129.12 it seems unlikely that all but the rarest of these criminals would have the skill – and good fortune – to make it too far into the four figures. Perhaps once in a blue moon a particularly crafty individual, or maybe a well organized group, could make off with ill gotten gains into five figures before store security, the authorities, and fate caught up with them.
One such team, three family members to be exact, were just apprehended on Wednesday by authorities after a lengthy career of lifting items from unsuspecting stores. And how long was the trio up to their scheme you ask? 3 months? A year? 5 YEARS? Try 10. Yes, this group managed to evade capture for an entire decade before they were finally caught. They were not even wanted until shortly before their apprehension.
Image Credit: chicagotribune
The length of time that they were up to no good is not the only surprise with this story however; they made off like the bandits they were as well – the merchandise they are accused of stealing has been valued at seven million dollars. They lived well, with a beautiful home in an affluent Illinois community.
The group took advantage of any item they could easily steal – toys, tablet readers, etc. — and then turned them into cash with the help of a fence. (Fences knowingly buy stolen goods from thieves at deeply discounted prices and resell them to unwitting consumers.) After the fence took his cut, the group made off with approximately $4 million dollars.
How exactly did they go this long and steal that much without anyone being any the wiser until recently? The mother would wear a large, flowing black dress that the group had modified to contain many compartments for the stolen goods to be hidden. While she was hard at work with this task, the father and daughter would cause some kind of distraction elsewhere in the store to divert the attention of store security, employees, and customers.
Things began to unravel for them when stores finally began to take notice of unusually high levels of shrinkage (industry jargon for stolen inventory) at certain stores all in the same geographic area. Two stores, Toys ‘R Us and Barnes & Noble, had their loss-prevention teams examine the issue and after searching eBay for items similar to the ones they were missing began to notice a correlation. It seems the family’s fence was using the online flea market as an easy conduit to unloading the merchandise with the hopes that no one would ever discover how they were acquired. Obviously, he did not count on the keen eye of these particular investigators.
The fence is cooperating with authorities who arrested the family this past Wednesday after they returned from a multi-state trip netting them more stolen goods. They have been charged with offenses that if found guilty will net them heavy fines and up to 10 years in prison.