MIAMI, Fla. (WFLA) — More than a dozen suspects are facing charges in connection to a Florida retail theft ring that contributed to more than $20 million in losses this year alone.
“It is well organized, it is profitable, it is criminal, this is the modern-day mafia and criminal organizations that we’re taking down,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said during a press conference Monday.
According to the Miami-Dade Police Department, 14 suspects are facing charges after the monthslong investigation, dubbed “Operation On the Fence.”
The nine-month RICO investigation began in January and targeted professional shoplifters or “boosters,” who aim to re-sell stolen items for a profit.
During the operation, investigators identified over 87 serial boosters, which led them to suspects who’ve made millions from the scheme.
Authorities said roughly 50 people across Florida were involved. The thefts have occurred throughout South Florida, prompting several local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as Homeland Security Investigations.
The alleged thieves hit different retailers throughout South Florida, prompting several local and state law enforcement agencies to investigate, as well as Homeland Security Investigations.
“We have seized not only material from inside the homes where they were stealing it after these items was stolen, but we seized pallets that were waiting to go and be sold online, we seized merchandise that was already with Amazon waiting to be sold that was stolen,” Moody said.
Some of the retail victims include Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Publix, Winn Dixie, Fresco Y Mas, Navarro, Home Depot, Lowes, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, Sam Ash, Best Buy, Harbor Freight, The Fiddle Shop, Guitar Center, Golf Galaxy, Macy’s, BJ’s, Costco, and various pool supply stores.
Authorities said the thieves stole a variety of items, from medication to expensive golf bags.
“Miami-Dade County has no tolerance, zero tolerance for these crimes,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “Retail theft is not a victimless crime.”
NBC affiliate WTVJ said many of the suspects have already been arrested, however, three suspects are still being sought. The news outlet also reported that one suspect crashed into a detective’s police cruiser before they were taken into custody.