A Chicago-New York shoplifting fencing ring was cracked with the help of River Forest police this week. Three men were arrested in connection with a scheme operating in Chicago and Oak Lawn to buy shoplifted, over-the-counter drugs, such as allergy medicines, and personal items like deodorants, body wash and shampoos for pennies on the dollar. The items were then sold in a neighborhood grocery store in the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue and shipped weekly to shops in New York state.
River Forest police began the investigation a month ago after a suspect, arrested for shoplifting, spilled the beans that personal items taken from local Walgreens and CVS stores could be sold to a Chicago fencing operation for 10 cents on the dollar.
River Forest police worked with the Chicago Police Department, the Porter County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Office, the Cook County Regional Organized Crime Task Force, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Walgreens Organized Crime Task Force and the CVS Regional Crime Investigations Unit.
Three search warrants were executed, July 1, and police arrested three men. Yacoub Khalifeh, 54, of the 2800 block of North Natoma Avenue in Chicago, was charged with a Class X felony — Organizer of a Financial Crime Enterprise. Wael Jarwan, 43, also of the 2800 block of Natoma, was charged with Class 3 Felony Theft. Najeh Hamad, 44, of the 9900 block of Massasoit in Oak Lawn, was charged with misdemeanor theft.
Some of the merchandise was sold at Asiel Food and Restaurant at 3750 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago and at other neighborhood grocery shops. Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen products were shipped to at least two New York locations weekly. The investigation also found some of the money earned from the sale of stolen items was shipped out of the country to banks in the Kingdom of Jordan.
Police recovered $19,000 worth of stolen retail property. Police also seized $14,000 and five vehicles.
“An everyday crime, such as retail theft, can evolve into a very profitable continuing criminal enterprise,” said River Forest Deputy Chief James O’Shea. “The illegal profits are not only used locally or regionally but are sent across the globe.”