Entries in retail (3)


59 Grinches Arrested in ‘Operation Whoville’ Shoplifting Sting

Cook County State's Attorney Office(CHICAGO) -- A pre-holiday undercover bust dubbed “Operation Whoville” netted 59 professional shoplifters around Chicago who were part of sophisticated fencing rings, police said.

The undercover task force was made up of federal, local and county authorities who aimed to catch the bad guys in the act.

The brazen thieves in these operations are known as “boosters,” or professional shoplifters. Authorities say they often go into a store with a list of items that they know they will be able to sell quickly and for a good price.

“Operation Whoville” began in October and focused on malls in suburban Chicago and stores on the city’s famous downtown shopping street, the Magnificent Mile.

“It was a big operation and the significance was that most of the work done by police departments in regards to financial crime is reactive in nature, but this was a proactive approach,” Orland Park Police Department Chief Tim McCarthy told ABC News.

Those arrested included Phillip Mazurek, a Skokie, Ill., man accused of stealing a $5,000 crystal vase from a store on the Magnificent Mile.

“These things can be sophisticated,” McCarthy said. He said that thieves in one of the rings would ship the stolen goods to Miami and from there the items would shipped to South America to be sold.

“It was a great effort and it’s going to continue,” McCarthy said. “These people who engage in this kind of activity aren’t going to know next time if we’re there watching. There’s hopefully going to be a Whoville Two.”

Whoville was, of course, the fictional town The Grinch ransacks before the holidays in the Dr. Suess classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Halloween the New Christmas?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In days of old, the sight of houses covered in over-the-top light decorations, miles of yard displays and extravagant spending on sweets meant only one thing: Christmas was near.

Now, the celebration begins two months earlier, in October, for Halloween.

The holiday that once meant just quaint trick-or-treating and a costume contest or two is now second only to Christmas when it comes to celebrating, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

Nearly 69 percent of Americans say they intend to celebrate the holiday this Monday, Oct. 31, the highest amount in the survey’s nine-year history.

Nearly half of those celebrating will decorate their homes and/or yard, and each will spend an average $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy -- a figure second only to the amount spent by individuals on Christmas décor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Formula Targeted by Organized Retail Theft Rings

BananaStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Infant formula has become such a hot commodity among sophisticated theft rings that it's been called "liquid gold."

The scale of baby formula shoplifting is so vast that it has become an interstate problem, drawn in the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and forced chain stores to install elaborate anti-theft devices. Federal legislation has even been introduced that would make stealing baby formula subject to federal racketeering laws.

It is a problem on both coasts and hits small stores as well big chains.

"Grocery chains will tell you that formula is targeted so often that in some cases they have locked it up, moved it behind the cash register, strategically put it on the floor and in some cases, they put a limited supply on the shelves," said Joe LaRocca of the National Retail Federation.

Ed Paczkowski's family has run a grocery store in South Amboy, N.J., for 82 years. His office overlooks the baby formula aisle.

"We've had it stolen quite a few times," Paczkowski, 73, said. He even watched a theft last month. "I saw a guy by the formula...all of a sudden I see him take two big cans...I saw him jiggle around where he put them in his coat...then he came back and took two more," Paczkowski said.

On a grander scale, the "Hernandez Group" reportedly operated an organized retail theft ring for four years in California and Oregon, stealing $2.5 million in infant formula from Safeway stores until police busted the ring in December 2010, according to court documents.

The FBI defines organized retail theft as a theft ring that crosses state lines and involves the trafficking of at least $5,000 worth of goods. Last year, $15 billion to $30 billion were lost by retail stores from organized retail theft, according to the NRF.

In each type of store, different products are targets of theft rings. Hardware stores find it's usually power tools and drill bits that are lifted, while clothing stores have a hard time hanging on to their denim, and drug stores see razor blades and diabetic strips walking out of their stores.

"In the big spectrum of retail crime, infant formula is one of the top items," LaRocca said. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio