RIVER FOREST, Ill. (STMW) – A 19-year-old man has been arrested for his alleged role in a retail theft ring that stole from grocery and liquor stores throughout the western suburbs then resold the merchandise to a smaller store.

Eli C. Lupancu, 19, of Normandy Ct. in Burr Ridge was arrested by River Forest police without incident at his home Wednesday. Lupancu was charged with retail theft and was also wanted on a $10,000 warrant for failing to appear in court on a criminal trespass charge in DuPage County.

The theft ring came to the attention of River Forest police on Oct. 28 when staff at the Jewel/Osco at 7525 Lake St. reported several men came into the store and loaded a shopping cart full of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks.

“They were then seen walking out of the store without paying for anything in the cart,” interim police Chief Greg Weiss said. “Outside the store, they were confronted by Jewel/Osco security personnel and abandoned the stolen property in the parking lot before fleeing.”

Investigators later discovered the suspects matched the descriptions of a group of young men arrested by Elmhurst police on Nov. 17 and charged with the theft of several cases of energy drinks and alcoholic beverages from a Jewel/Osco.

Elmhurst police stopped an SUV near the store and arrested Lupancu and four other men for felony retail theft. Also charged were Maurice J. Maiah, 19, of the 7900 block of S. Nordica in Berwyn; Amjad I. Nassar, 22, of the 8000 block of W. Surrey Park in Palos Hills; Yamen Samm, 20, of Orland Park; and Mohammad A. Bsiso, 18, also of Orland Park.

River Forest Detective Sgt. Marty Grill said Maiah and Nassar are being sought for their alleged roles in the Oct. 28 theft.

“The investigation showed a group of five to seven men, including Lupancu, would target local groceries throughout Cook and DuPage counties and steal large amounts of energy drinks and liquor so they could sell them to local, smaller grocery stores at a price lower than the store would pay to a distributor,” Weiss said.

“They were selling it back to a store in Burbank,” Grill said of the stolen merchandise. “They were getting $25 for a bottle of good vodka. They were operating more like an unlicensed wholesaler.”

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