Cops Bust Up Alleged Fencing Operation

Authorities said they recovered about $40,000 worth of stolen baby formula, razor blades, over-the-counter meds and other stolen goods

Chicago-area police executed search warrants on two homes, a business and three banking institutions Monday in what investigators called a major fencing bust aimed at recovering thousands of dollars-worth of stolen merchandise.

Police arrested three people, seized more than $100,000 in cash, and recovered approximately $40,000 worth of stolen baby formula, razor blades, over-the-counter medications and other goods sold at stores like Target, CVS and Walgreens.

The River Forest Police Department organized the operation, which stretched from the suburbs to the city of Chicago. The Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police, Cook County State’s Attorney, USDA and Department of Homeland Security provided assistance.

Security representatives from retail stores, including Walgreens, helped police recover evidence from the JJ Food Mart at 285 North Pulaski in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago.

"In their analysis this was one of the larger ones so it was a good one to take down," said Officer Ben Laird of the River Forest Police Department.

According to investigators, thieves who stole items from retail stores in the suburbs would bring their loot to the food mart. Police said the thieves would receive about ten to fifteen cents on the dollar for the goods.

"When they receive their money they usually are in the neighborhood where they purchase their narcotics and then use their narcotics and it’s a vicious cycle," said River Forest deputy police chief Jim O’Shea.

Police said alleged fencers avoid paying taxes on the stolen merchandise while turning big profits.

Laird said the store’s owners, who were arrested without incident at their respective homes in Bridgeview and Burbank, could face financial crime and wire fraud charges.

A JJ Food Mart employee arrested at the store declined to comment.

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