Cook County officials are touting the arrests of two brothers accused of running a multimillion-dollar fencing ring.
Ajay Patel, 36, and Vijay Patel, 37, are accused of running a criminal enterprise that bought large quantities of stolen goods, then used a North Side warehouse to repackage and resell them.
Prosecutors say the Patel brothers' business, Advance Distributors at 4949 N. Pulaski, posed as an importer of goods, but was really a front for their criminal activity. In some cases, the stolen goods funneled through the Patels' warehouse included over-the-counter drugs that had their expiration dates altered or removed, authorities allege.
Both men are charged with theft and money laundering, both Class 1 felonies. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez announed the charges Sunday.
Alvarez said the bust was the work of her office's Regional Organized Crime Task Force, formed last summer. The investigation included the undercover sale of a truckload of goods all branded with the Target store label, valued at over $100,000, which the Patels bought from agents for $22,000, prosecutors said.
After the men were arrested, authorities searched their homes and found $4.5 million in cash stuffed into duffle bags, suit cases and bank safety boxes, according to the state's attorney.
Representatives from Target, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Safeway and J.C. Penny stood by Alvarez during Sunday's news conference, pledging to cooperate with her office to help take down organized thieves.
It is estimated that the State of Illinois loses more than $77 million each year in potential tax revenues as a result of organized retail crime, Alvarez said.
Ajay Patel was released on bail Saturday, but his older brother was not released because his passport could not be found, and authorities are concerned he might try to flee the country, ChicagoBreakingNews reported.