CHICAGO (CBS) — Police in south suburban Markham say a “sophisticated” retail theft ring was busted Tuesday when police tracked stolen vehicles the burglars used as a caravan to haul stolen goods to a storage facility less than a block from the Markham police station.
Investigators found nearly $1 million in stolen goods hidden in the storage facility.
“This operation is sophisticated, in that it goes much deeper than what we recovered here. The individuals .. have been at this for a very long time. They’re very good at what they do,” Markham Police Chief Terry White said Friday morning.
The stolen merchandise included top-shelf liquor, name-brand shoes, big-screen TVs, kitchenware, bicycles, vacuum cleaners, computer monitors, and high-end luggage, among other merchandise.
The items were found in dozens of boxes that were filled with stolen goods over the course of six months and placed in the storage units.
Police said eight people were arrested, and five have been charged with a number of crimes, including theft, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and various gun and drug violations.
White said the burglary ring used several stolen vehicles to haul away their stolen goods, and would use so-called “chase cars” which were empty to lure away police on chases through the south suburbs, while other vehicles carried off the loot.
“It’s very sophisticated,” White said.
Early Tuesday, Markham officers spotted some of the cars used in the theft ring at a storage facility at 163rd and Kedzie, just down the street from the Markham police station. In one of the stolen vehicles, police found $16,000 in cash, as well as drugs and stolen weapons.
White said nearly $1 million in stolen goods were hidden in three storage units filled from top to bottom.
CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker got a peek inside the storage units Thursday afternoon. Among the items she noted was a briefcase that had a price tag of $525.
Police said five men were behind the operation. Four of them would break into railroad yards and steal the merchandise from train cars, as well as trucks and other vehicles parked on Chicago streets.
Police said a fifth thief rented the storage units, and they believe he planned to sell the goods and ship them overseas.
As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, major theft rings like this one could cost Americans in the long run. Some industry experts say stores drive up their prices to cover the costs of retail thefts.
To put the larger problem is perspective, the National Retail Federation says organized heists cost retailers nationwide about $30 billion per year.
White said the suspects in this case have previous convictions for theft, burglary, robbery, weapons violations, and drug charges.