59 Arrested In Shoplifting Sting

Updated 11/20/11 – 4:13 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A pre-holiday sting in Cook County targeting professional shoplifters in three locations has culminated in 59 arrests.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, at a news conference Sunday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the investigation, dubbed “Operation Whoville,” took place over the last month on North Michigan Avenue, Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg and Orland Square Mall in Orland Park.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

Surveillance video played at the news conference showed how thieves work in teams.

“They are very organized. Everybody has a job to do, they know what it is and they know exactly where the merchandise is going once they get it out of the store,” Alvarez said.

Authorities said these aren’t petty thefts. The thieves got away with large amounts of baby formula, dozens of pairs of name brand jeans and drug store items like razors.

It’s the kind of stuff that brings in big dollars on the black market and costs Illinois $77 million in lost tax revenue, the work of criminals who call themselves “boosters.”

Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney David Williams said, “That’s their day job, is they go in and they steal. They have a place in which they’re going to fence the goods to before they go in, oftentimes going in with a shopping list.”

Alvarez said that in one case, a woman was caught shoving an entire suit jacket down her pants.

“I’m still a little confused as how she was able to walk out with that,” Alvarez said.

Undercover agents from a countywide task force arrested 59 people who targeted malls in Schaumburg and Orland Park; and stores like WalMArt, Dominck’s and The Gap.

Even a heavy and precious $5,000 crystal vase was stolen from a Michigan Avenue store.

“We’re talking about big groups that are stealing large quantities of goods,” Alvarez said.

In some cases the so-called “boosters” will line tote bags with duct tape to keep garment alarms from sounding, but equally troubling is the fact some shady retailers are more than willing to purchase and resell these items.

Dan Ensing, a retail crime investigator for Dominick’s, said “It doesn’t matter how many boosters that we catch; they’re still gonna be out there if we can’t target and shut down the locations that purchase this merchandise.”

“Operation Whoville” was a joint effort of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, countywide law enforcement agencies, retail security forces, and even Homeland Security investigators.

In one case, items were stolen in Orland Park, taken to Villa Park, shipped to Miami and then to South America — an example of how sophisticated these operations can be.

  • Centurion

    And…it gets better..due to overcrowding at Cook County Jail…those arrested for shoplifting….have been released on an I-BOND and they are back out on the streets.

    • Roberta Waker

      You are right; I wonder why they even bothered to arrest them in the first place. Has anyone thought of building more jails to house these criminals? Seems like a good solution and it would put people to work to build, maintain and man them and it might even keep criminals off the streets for a change.

  • Hachipisali

    “Okay Elma, get those syringe needles ready, the doc says we have a request for 59 booster shots today.”

  • Tea_Party_Hero

    What race were these shoplifters?

    Since they are sending stuff to South America, I bet that they are ILLEGALS.

    • Charlie Arroyo

      how stupid you sound, if you watch the video they were not from south America. They were Afro American who through their fence were able to sell to the fence and the fence sent it to South America. A Reply such as Illegals are made by ignorant Whites who love show their bigotry every time they have a chance. I knew car thieves who are Hispanic and their fence sent the cars to Germany. Try making your comments with a educated guess not a racist one one unless doing your reading is just to difficult for you to do

  • Tanya Livingstont

    The inmates are running the asylum. As cuts to first responders (police) and State’s Attorneys are being made, this is what is going to happen. You starve the government of reveune and you have lawlessness….chaos. The wild west was settled by Judges and Lawyers and the justice system. We are slowly turning our country into another Libya or Somalia under the mantra of no new taxes.

  • Bob Hamilton

    They are NOT boosters, they are low life slimey thieves! These are the same people who are on disability while not being disabled, getting every type of public aid they possibly can, paying no taxes, not voting, suing anyone they possibly can, using handicapped parking permits, while their only handicap is that they are low life slime. They believe they are are victims and are entitled to what they steal. They don’t tip, yet demand the highest service. They are – They Worst Slime On Earth! Good Day.

    • swizzle

      No offense bob but you seem confused. You cannot prove a single thing you posted in your rant. Honestly, blaming them for not paying taxes, using hadicapped parking permits illegally, on public aid. But where is the proof of that?
      The truth is, Illinois taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the cost of the stolen itmes, those will be paid back to the businesses on their insurance plans, the only costs will be to the taxpayers for locking up nonviolent criminals.
      Really what it breaks down to is there is a set limit to beds, do you want one filled with a guy who shoplifted a can of baby formula or do you want it filled with a killer, rapist, child pornogapher, molester, etc?

  • Jim Hamilton

    Peofesional shoplifters? my wife says LOL where did they get their degree for that profession.

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