A major retail theft sting operation launched ahead of the holiday shopping season netted 59 arrests, including some at Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg, prosecutors said Sunday.
The Cook County State's Attorney's office headed "Operation Whoville," which targeted organized retail theft rings at Woodfield Shopping Center, Orland Square Mall in Orland Park and several stores along North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
The crews who were targeted steal from retail stores then pass the goods to "fencing" operations, who resell them, according to the state's attorney's office.
Those sales go untaxed, according to prosecutors, costing the state an estimated $77 million in would-be collections.
Investigators from a number of agencies went undercover in the retail outlets as part of the operation, which began in mid-October. Authorities hope data and intelligence information collected on theft crews and their patterns will help prevent future offenses.
"We intend to continue to use the intelligence we have gathered to be active and aggressive in the investigation and prosecution of this crime," said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Investigators estimate the amount of stolen merchandise recovered to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to prosecutors. Authorities recovered clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, over-the-counter medicine, baby formula, DVDs and even a $5,200 vase.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations agency, the U.S. Marshal's Service, and members of the Schaumburg, South Barrington, Chicago and Orland Park police departments assisted in the sting.