May 20, 2011 in City

Groups charged in shoplifting ring

Jennifer Sullivan Seattle Times
 

SEATTLE – Criminal charges were filed Thursday against six people who are accused of purchasing millions of dollars worth of merchandise shoplifted from Seattle-area retail stores and then reselling them, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

The charges involve two separate groups that prosecutors say bought $6 million in stolen food, beauty products and personal hygiene items and then resold them over the course of several years. Many of the items were stolen by drug addicts, who then sold them to members of the two groups for as little as $1 to $2, prosecutors allege.

Some of the items were resold online, at a Seattle market, or shipped to Cambodia, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said.

Chanthou Rim, Sara Kong, Gulshan Rai, Jatin Rai, Shabnam Sukhija and Mitu Rai have been charged with attempted trafficking in stolen property, attempted possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit organized retail theft. Rim and Kong have also been charged with criminal solicitation.

The charges against Gulshan Rai, 56, his wife, Shabnam Sukhija, 57, their son, Jatin Rai, 36, and his wife, Mitu Rai, 35, stem from a Seattle police investigation last fall into the GMS Market in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. The Rai family runs the GMS market.

Nearly 20 shoplifters, also known as “boosters,” have been linked to the cases, prosecutors said. Satterberg said the arrests “are definitely the tip of the iceberg.”

More than $1 million worth of health and beauty products were reportedly stolen from Safeway, QFC, Target, Fred Meyer, Top Foods and other stores in Seattle over the last two years, police said.

The four GMS defendants earned nearly $800,000 per month selling stolen goods on the Internet, prosecutors said.

In a separate investigation, police investigated Rim, 38, and Kong, 40, who allegedly used “thieves to enter retail grocery and other stores to steal merchandise,” charges said.

Among the thieves, said Satterberg, was a mother-daughter duo who shoplifted nearly $1,000 worth of items each day, he said. The duo sold stolen items to Rim and Kong and told police they did it because they needed money to support their heroin addictions, according to the charges.

In August, Chantel Damon pleaded guilty to second-degree theft. Her mother, Irene Damon, pleaded guilty to five counts of second-degree burglary.

About $5 million worth of items is believed to have been stolen from retail stores, prosecutors said.

Some of the items stolen were exported to Cambodia, prosecutors said.

Federal immigration authorities investigated the couple for shipping stolen items out of country. Earlier this month, agents searched a shipping container at the Port of Seattle that was bound for Cambodia. Authorities found large quantities of personal, health-care and cleaning products that were not listed on the manifest for the container, agents said.


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