What started with a shoplifting arrest in November in Mount Prospect has ended with charges against three people who police say were running a ring, buying and selling more than $100,000 in stolen property.
Police from Mount Prospect, Chicago and Orland Park on Wednesday executed 10 search warrants, confiscating more than $100,000 in cash, five vehicles, stolen merchandise and more than 6,300 packs of cigarettes without proper tax stamps, according to a news release from Chicago police.
Mahmoud Yassin, 60, of the 15400 block of Hollywood Drive in Orland Park, and his son, Yassin Yassin, 18, of the same address were each charged with two felony counts of theft. An associate of the men, Numa Shlain, 67, of the 200 block of Woodstone Circle in Buffalo Grove, was charged with one felony count of theft.
Police said the three bought items stolen by shoplifters and resold them through three small stores owned by Mahmoud Yassin on the northwest side of Chicago as well as online, police said.
The investigation began after a gang crimes unit officer questioned a shoplifter and learned where the items were being sold, said Timothy Janowick, Mount Prospect deputy chief.
Police worked with loss prevention agents from Dominick's, JC Penney, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, who advised them on tracking and identifying stolen merchandise, and who helped set up a collaboration with the Chicago police asset forfeiture unit.
Police recorded individuals posing as shoplifters as they delivered merchandise to Discount Cigarettes in the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, where the purchase of items including coffee, cold medicine, cigarettes, soda, razor blades and teeth whitening strips was negotiated, police said.
Officers Wednesday raided Discount Cigarettes, School Snack Grocery & Tobacco in the 3900 block of North School Street, and Euro Communication in the 5300 block of West Belmont Avenue, where they say they located numerous stolen products.
More than 360 packs of the stolen cigarettes were hidden behind a false wall at School Snack Grocery & Tobacco, police said.
Officers also executed search warrants at the suburban homes of the offenders where stolen items were transported, stored and organized for shipment after they were posted on the Internet, police said. The cars and cash were confiscated as illegal proceeds of the operation, police said.
While the sting broke up a major operation, it won't end the problem, Janowick said.
"These operations are running all over the place," he said.
He said they typically buy items from shoplifters for pennies on the dollar, then sell them for half-price, undermining legitimate businesses that play by the rules and pay their taxes.
"They're facing somebody a few doors away who is playing by a very different set of rules," he said of legitimate businesses.