Busting Underground Shoplifting Rings: Inside Organized Retail Crime Raids


"She probably paid $10 for it," Swett said.

Inspectors from various stores swarmed the place and all of the merchandise was photographed. Police handcuffed the accused and it was on to the next target.

In another jurisdiction halfway across the country, investigators in Northern Indiana have a secret warehouse that is packed with millions of dollars worth of stolen merchandise -- one of many across the United States.

Its location is kept secret because busting in would be a booster's dream, a one-stop shop. This is also the headquarters for Walgreen's Organized Retail Crime Division run by director Jerry Biggs. Biggs said more than 40 boosters can feed one fencing operation. One recent ring they busted was making $17 million a year.

"This stuff here," Biggs said, gesturing to the thousands upon thousands of bottles of lotion, baby formula and medical supplies. "Most of it was taken within just weeks. Probably took us about six months to work the case, following them to four different states continuously."

Pins in a map stuck to the wall mark shoplifting hot spots. Flow charts connect members of various gangs.

Biggs' library of surveillance tapes is astounding. One tape showed a man wearing a suit in a Texas Walgreens swiping a tray of diabetic test strips -- a total value of $1,000.

"He takes that to the bathroom and puts it in his pockets," Biggs said.

Two days later, Biggs said that man was stopped by traffic cops with $4,000 worth of medicine in the trunk of his car. He was charged with possession of controlled drugs and stolen property.

Another Biggs video showed two women who seemed to have the keys to display cases in another Walgreens, which they unlocked and emptied, making off with the merchandise. Police are still looking to question them.

"I'm amazed every time," he said. "They can come into the store and in 45 minutes they can walk out with $400 to $2,000 worth of merchandise and nobody knows what happens."

Biggs and his team are the James Bonds of retail crime. They are armed with tracking devices, radios and hidden cameras, including visor cams that Biggs said can monitor what is going on in a 360-degree radius. A booster might think he is out the door and home free, but not always.

"With today's technology, I can have your face pretty much throughout the country in less than 10 minutes," Biggs said.

Back in Los Angeles, the people at the fencing operation were arrested for possession of stolen property. Formal charges still pending their court date.

Another operation completed, but for Swett, the work goes on.

"Could be nothing, could be something, but that's a lot of stuff" he said, as he starts to videotape a suspicious van being loaded in a store parking lot during one of his recent stake-outs.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 18600080.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Kanye West accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Polk/MTV1415/Getty Images
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin works out at Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Aug. 30, 2015.
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images