Organized retail theft is a billion dollar problem in the U.S. With consumer electronics on the rise, "boosters" or shoplifters are busy stealing pricey merchandises and selling them online.
A family in Chicago was arrested on Tuesday for stealing millions of dollars worth of goods from popular stores such as Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble. Federal authorities arrested 58-year old Branko Bogdanov, 52-year old Lela Bogdanov, and 34-year old Julia Bogdanov at their $1 million two-story house in Northbrook village, Illinois.
According to a 20-page complaint, the trio stole items ranging from consumer electronics to Lego blocks, and from American dolls to cosmetics. They even stole bags of coffee from Starbucks. They would then sell these stolen items online through eBay.
Authorities said the family was able to sell an estimated $7.1 million worth of stolen goods over the past 10 years.
Frank Benedetto, head of the U.S. Secret Service in Chicago, said that the Bogdanov case is interesting because of the manner the family operated. “I think they had a system over a significant period of time where I guess they thought they were minimizing their risk. But eventually law enforcement caught up with them," Benedetto told the Chicago Tribune.
The Bogdanov family was incredibly efficient. The mother, Lela Bogdanov, will usually wear a long black dress that secret compartments on it. She would then insert the stolen goods on her dress while her husband and daughter will divert the attention of the store employees.
The investigation started a few months ago after retailers contacted the United States Secret Service to complain about a "huge loss in merchandise." Authorities were able to trace the stolen products on eBay to a certain “Franko Kalath,” which is apparently Branko Bogdanov's alias.
The family who came to the U.S. from the former Yugoslavia are now facing one count each of interstate transportation of stolen property, a conviction that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. It is still unclear if any of the Bogdanovs are U.S. citizens.
The court has scheduled a detention heading on Monday.