Shoplifting becoming more sophisticated and organized
An elaborate and extensive baby formula-stealing scheme has landed an Arizona husband and wife in jail, according to police.
Detectives in Chandler found out in September 2018 that Rafid Khoshi, 46, and his wife, Manal Sulaiman, 43, had been buying baby formula in huge quantities from so-called “boosters” — shoplifters who were stealing the merchandise from local retailers, and then were passing it on to the pair “for 30 to 50 cents on the dollar,” police said Monday in announcing the arrest.
Police said the couple shipped the products from their Chandler home to El Cajon, California, where they turned a profit by selling it to a distributor in the San Diego County area.
All told, the couple sent more than 25,000 cans of the stolen infant formula to Southern California — an amount that, “using conservative numbers,” totals around $425,000 in stolen merchandise, according to police.
Local authorities said the pair recruited more than a dozen “regular boosters” using OfferUp, an online platform for buyers and sellers, similar to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Those shoplifters brought in about 2,000 cans of Enfamil and Similac brand formula each month, with one shoplifter, Jesus Tirado Lara, 31, selling the couple more than $46,000 in stolen goods, according to police.
Lara was arrested in December 2018, police said.
One of the other boosters was actually an undercover detective who helped authorities complete a dozen transactions with the accused couple — and one of those exchanges featured a full pallet of formula that was worth more than $15,000, according to police.
The shoplifters targeted stores like Safeway, Target and Walmart, according to police.
Police said they arrested Khoshi and Sulaiman on May 23 and booked them at the Maricopa County Jail. Both face charges of trafficking stolen property, theft, conspiracy, fraudulent schemes, participating in a criminal syndicate and illegal control of an enterprise.
Fifteen people in all were arrested in the scheme, police said.
“This investigation was one of our largest organized retail theft cases in terms of size and scope,” Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan said in a statement. “The financial losses to the victims were great and so was the reach this criminal enterprise had in the community.”