Attorney general: Chicago bust by organized retail crime task force nets thousands of goods
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Friday that several million dollars' worth of stolen goods were recovered Wednesday night in Chicago as a result of the work of his new Organized Retail Crime Task Force.
The items from unspecified nationwide retailers were found in eight storage units. Electronic items, hair extensions, beauty products and leggings were among the thousands of items seized, Raoul said at a news conference in Chicago.
"I appreciate the cooperation of our partners in law enforcement and retail as we continue to investigate this massive theft," Raoul said. "Organized retail theft is about more than lost revenue and stolen products. Frequently, the criminal enterprises behind these crimes are connected to other crimes, such as the drug trade and human trafficking."
He said the purpose of the news conference was to encourage law enforcement agencies and retailers to cooperate across jurisdictions to combat the crimes.
Raoul highlighted the robbery of an Oak Brook Ulta store in November as an example of such work.
According to authorities, Chicago police notified Oak Brook police that a car involved in a crime in Norridge earlier in the day was parked in front of the Ulta store. The car was gone by the time Oak Brook police arrived at the store, but Hinsdale police were able to find the vehicle on I-294 and arrested four people.
Raoul formed a task force in September to combat organized retail crime. The Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail estimates retail theft accounts for $45 billion in annual losses.
In this case, a Chicago police officer who was arresting someone on a gun charge noticed items in the defendant's car. The officer suspected the items were stolen, according to Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.
The task force obtained search warrants for the storage units. It took 15 investigators nine hours to remove the items, Raoul said.
Raoul would not say how the items were stolen. He also would not say whether they were connected to recent mob smash-and-grab robberies.
He said there are a variety of "methodologies" for organized retail crime.
"It is not necessarily all items that were stolen in retail stores," he said, because items may have been stolen before they were delivered to stores.
Raoul said he has been in contact with websites that people use to sell goods, asking them to use their intelligence resources to root out people selling stolen items.
He also said consumers should heed some clues when purchasing items, including prices that are way below normal.
"If something is so out of whack," he said, "that's a signal something is stolen."