By Ben Meyerson
River Forest police have busted a man who allegedly stole $280 worth of energy drinks from Jewel in October, but abandoned his haul in the parking lot.
Eli Lupancu of Burr Ridge, 19, was arrested by River Forest police outside his home on Dec. 15 and charged with retail theft.
Lupancu had been stealing Red Bull and Monster energy drinks and reselling them to mom-and-pop grocery stores in the southwest suburbs for slightly less than the wholesale price, according to River Forest Police Detective Sgt. Marty Grill.
Lupancu and two other men stole $280 worth of energy drinks from the River Forest Jewel at 7525 Lake St. on Oct. 28, according to the original police report, but when a manager followed them into the parking lot, they abandoned their haul and drove away.
River Forest police found Lupancu when Elmhurst police sent out a bulletin recently announcing Lupancu’s arrest there. They matched up Elmhurst’s mugshots of Lupancu and two of his cohorts with Jewel’s security tapes and tracked Lupancu down.
Police are still looking for two other suspects, Maurice Maiah, 19, of Burbank, and Amjad Nassar, 22, of Palos Hills, according to a press release issued today by River Forest police.
They were part of a group of five to seven men who were targeting grocery stores throughout Cook and DuPage counties and stealing energy drinks and liquor, which they would then turn around and resell to smaller local grocery stores, Grill said.
“It’s something that we’re starting to see across the region, where people are coming in and stealing in bulk,” Grill said. “It’s an age-old trick from a drug addict: sell the stuff to a local shop down the street from where you buy your heroin.”
Lupancu and his colleagues weren’t doing this for drug money though, Grill said — this appeared just to be a way to line their pockets.
“It’s a newer concept for those who want to profit purely financially,” he said. “We know there’s a market out there for bars and liquor stores who want to stock their shelves at a lower price.”
Grill said the department is following up on some of the shops that might have bought the stolen energy drinks.
“Our investigation indicates that the people who were buying these goods were very aware that they weren’t buying them through normal channels,” Grill said. “All the transactions were done by cash, and there’s no receipts.”
Grill said that Lupancu is being charged with retail theft even though he abandoned his haul in the Jewel parking lot.
The definition of retail theft is taking goods past the last point of purchase without paying for them. In this case, police said, the crew made it all the way outside to the parking lot before ditching the energy drinks.