Law enforcement got a pre-holiday jump on 59 people suspected of retail theft during a month-long undercover operation targeted at organized theft rings.
Named Operation Whoville, the sting focused on suburban shopping malls and a handful of boutiques off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The month-long effort was coordinated by a task force including seven federal, state and municipal law enforcement, including the Orland Park Police Department, as well as 16 retailers, according to a release from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The purpose was to cut links in a chain starting with stolen merchandise that is then resold, or fenced, without any taxes taken, leading to a sizable profit for the theft operation, and higher costs on goods for consumers because of the diminished supply.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez estimated Illinois looses $71 million in tax revenue each year from organized retail theft and the fencing of goods.
“We intend to continue to use the intelligence we have gathered to be active and aggressive in the investigation and prosecution of this crime,” Alvarez said in the release.
Among the arrestees in the sting was Della R. Nicholson, 46, of the first block of North Mason Avenue in Chicago. She and another woman, Cessena M. Bradley, 33, also of the first block of North Mason Avenue in Chicago, were seen placing merchandise into shopping bags at Orland Square Mall and leaving without paying, according to an Orland Park police report. .
Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said the aid was appreciated, given the large amount of retail space in Orland Park.
“Local police agencies are always being asked to do more with less, particularly in these trying times, and this partnership is crucial in helping our agency continue to effectively tackle the problem of retail theft on behalf of the citizens of our community,” McCarthy said in the release.
A specific dollar value of the total recovered merchandise from all the arrests was not offered, though officials estimate it is in the “tens of thousands,” according to the release.
One recovered item is a crystal vase worth $5,200 from a Michigan Avenue boutique.
Participating Law Enforcement
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agency
- U.S. Marshal’s Service
- Chicago Police Department
- Schaumburg Police Department
- South Barrington Police Department
- Sam’s Club
- Limited Brands
Source: Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office