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Chicago PD Announce Crack-Down on Retail Theft Rings

The last time you heard about an ORC you were likely watching Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, “organized retail crime” is becoming a major issue for Chicago retailers. CPD released a statement announcing a crackdown on organized retail crime after a 15-year-old was arrested and charged with 21 counts of theft from a beauty store. 

The problem for police is that it appears that teenagers are being used to carry out the crimes, are paid by adults for the merchandise they pocket, and then that merchandise is sold over eBay or related services for profit. Police believe that the conspiracy employs children because they are less likely to face serious criminal charges. They also hide the identities of the adults who are profiting from the theft. The children are paid a fraction of the cost of the merchandise. This makes it a win-win for both children and adults. However, the retail stores and the very backbone of our economy are placed at risk by retail thefts. 

Police have announced that they intend to track the merchandise and sales and come down hard on those who resell the stolen merchandise on the black market. 

Understanding organized retail crime

There are two elements to organized retail crime. The first is the actual theft, the second is the conspiracy to commit the theft. Since the crime has been organized, the planning stage itself can become part of the prosecution and charged separately from the actual theft charges. For obvious reasons, the police do not want to arrest teenagers over and over, so tracking the merchandise to the resellers is how they will build their case. 

Organized retail crime occurs at all levels. While Chicago is concerned with protecting its retail outlets from thieves, the federal government also prosecutes these crimes under The Hobbes Act which is meant to protect interstate commerce from robbery. In some cases, those who have hijacked UPS trucks or other similar crimes have faced charges under The Hobbes Act. The more complex the operation is, the more likely it will be prosecuted by the federal government.

While stealing is not difficult to pull off, the operation requires illegitimate (but apparently legitimate) businesses to move the merchandise. These include wholesalers that may advertise on the internet selling products at discount rates. Stolen merchandise operations require sophisticated fencing operations, repackaging operations, and more to “launder” the stolen goods. Nonetheless, tracing merchandise to leadership within the ring has proven difficult for law enforcement. There are a number of sophisticated ways that the product can be cleaned. However, the more sophisticated your attempts at clearing the merchandise, the more likely you are to face federal RICO or Hobbes Act charges. 

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Teenagers involved in organized retail crime are going to be charged as adults to pressure them into divulging details of the ORC operation. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.

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