On 03/15/11, search warrants were served on the GMS Market, the GMS owners’ residence and their vehicles. The Seattle Police Property Recovery/Pawn Unit conducted an investigation into an extensive retail theft crime ring in and around the City of Seattle. Through an undercover operation in conjunction with suspect, victim, witness, and informant interviews, and with the cooperation of loss prevention officers from victim retail stores, investigators learned of an organized criminal group active in this area. The group used thieves (boosters) to enter retail grocery and other stores to steal merchandise.
Over the past 2 years, the merchant victims reported experiencing repeated thefts of merchandise exceeding millions of dollars in value, some of which detectives were able to contribute to the GMS Market. The GMS Market, located in the Greenwood neighborhood in North Seattle is a family owned business and only family members work in the store.
It appeared that many of the thieves are individuals addicted to heroin and other illegal drugs. The owners of the GMS Market provided the thieves with requests for specific items, asking for merchandise with a shelf value of over $20 each. The owners of the GMS Market then paid cash for the stolen items, usually $1-$2 per item. Detectives conducted more than 12 undercover sales of purportedly stolen product to the owners and clerks of GMS Market. These transactions took place between December 4th, 2010, and March 10th, 2011. Detectives also learned that one of the owners of the GMS Market operated internet stores on Ebay and Amazon Marketplace.
In the course of this investigation, undercover detectives purchased “stolen” merchandise (positively identified as the merchandise sold to GMS by undercover and informants) from the GMS Market as well as from the internet stores.
Over the last two years, Safeway, QFC, Target, Fred Meyer, Top Foods and other local retail stores in the North Seattle area alone have reported losses in health and beauty items of over 1.5 million dollars. In order to combat those losses, retail stores have been forced to deploy additional loss prevention officers at these North Seattle and North King County stores.
Investigators recovered a large amount of evidence from the search warrants. After going through this evidence, investigators will request appropriate charges through the King County Prosecutors Office. Potential charges include: Leading Organized Crime, Trafficking in Stolen Property and Organized Retail Theft.
The Seattle Police Property Recovery/Pawn Unit would like to thank the King County Prosecutors Office, Safeway, QFC, Target, Fred Meyer, Top Foods and other local retail stores in North Seattle/North King County in this joint collaboration.