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State AG’s retail theft task force recovers over $1 million in stolen merchandise

Kwame Raoul said the items recovered were a mix of electronics, high-end food items, hair extensions, jewelry, men’s and women’s clothing from a variety of major national retailers. 

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speaks with reporters about preventing the theft of narcotics from pharmacies during a press conference, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021 at CVS on 1165 N. Clark St in Near North.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Friday a statewide retail crime task force has recovered over $1 million in merchandise.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

A retail theft task force recovered well over $1 million in stolen goods from about four semitrailers this week, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Friday.

The investigation into the stolen merchandise is ongoing and in the early stages.

Raoul’s office and its task force partners will “be working over the coming weeks to identify all of the individuals involved,” the attorney general said at a news conference Friday.

“Today’s announcement is proof positive that this enhanced collaboration is vital to disrupting the cycle of organized retail crime,” Raoul said. “It hopefully keeps us from making the mistake of regarding crimes as isolated acts ... when they’re actually a part of a larger scheme. ... It is critically important that this type of collaboration and communication occur in order to catch these criminals and find out the enterprise behind them.”

Raoul wouldn’t go into detail about the investigation but said the items recovered were a mix of electronics, high-end food items, hair extensions, jewelry, and men’s and women’s clothing from a variety of major national retailers.

Raoul didn’t offer the names of those retailers, citing the ongoing investigation, but he did offer a scope of the amount of merchandise recovered. The find was so large it took a team of 15 investigators and law enforcement officers eight to nine hours to unpack all of the goods between Wednesday evening to early Thursday morning, Raoul said.

Raoul said he had “strong reason to believe that if we had not acted swiftly” the items may not have been recovered.

Those goods were recovered from eight storage units in two locations and the task force issued its search warrants based on information from an unrelated gun arrest by a Chicago police officer on Sunday. That person is in custody.

It’s the first major seizure of the Organized Retail Crime Task Force the attorney general created in September.

Raoul said at the time he created the task force to curtail organized retail theft, crimes that are responsible for $45 billion of annual losses across the state.

The task force is composed of law enforcement departments across the state, retail advocacy groups and major retailers, including Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Walgreens, CVS and Walmart. No retailers were at the news conference Friday.

Raoul said in September there is an organized element to much of the retail theft seen in Illinois and there is a lively online marketplace for those stolen goods. Many retail theft schemes, he said, are connected to money laundering, drugs and counterfeit products.