What to Know
- A multimillion-dollar crime ring sent paid thieves to pharmacies across New Jersey and New York with catalogues of items to steal
- The ring's takedown is being considered the largest of its kind in the U.S. Authorities have seized $3 million worth of stolen merchandise
- They also froze bank accounts affiliated with the ring that held around $4.5 million. Eleven people have been charged so far
A multimillion-dollar crime ring sent paid shoplifters into pharmacies across New Jersey and New York with catalogues of items to steal — and its takedown is being considered the largest of its kind in the U.S., authorities say.
Police officers arresting alleged shoplifters in New Jersey started to notice a trend at the beginning of 2018, Jersey City Police Department’s Deputy Chief of Police Mark Miller said at a press conference Thursday.
Many of the shoplifters told police a man in Jersey City was giving them a catalogue of items — including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and beauty supplies — to go out, shoplift and bring back, at which point they’d receive payment for the items, Miller said.
“They would actually go in, and take a gift bag from the shelves from inside the store, open up the biggest gift bag they could find and just start taking [items] off the shelf,” he said.
When authorities opened up an investigation, they learned the thefts were all part of a “sophisticated” organized retail theft enterprise targeting chain pharmacies like Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, Duane Reade and Ulta Beauty, Miller said.
The ring had drivers that would load up a car with five to 10 people and bring them to stores throughout New Jersey, Queens and Long Island to shoplift, according to Miller.
The stolen goods would then be taken to a stock room, where ring members packaged them up and sold them on eBay, he said.
Authorities executed four search warrants on March 21 and seized around $3 million worth of stolen merchandise. They also froze bank accounts affiliated with the ring that held around $4.5 million, according to Miller.
Eleven people have been charged in connection with the ring, and warrants have been issued for other members of the ring, police say.