WILMETTE, Ill. (CBS) -- Police in Wilmette announced Wednesday that they have busted a sophisticated fencing operation – in which they say the suspects took in stolen merchandise from retail stores and sold them online.
Wilmette police, Evanston police, and the CVS Organized Retail Crime Team conducted an 11-month undercover investigation to bust the operation, after retail thefts in Wilmette led to the discovery of a fencing ring in Chicago.
Police said the suspects would take in stolen retail products – including over-the-counter medications – which they then sold via online stores.
On Monday, Wilmette, Evanston, and Chicago police, the CVS drugstore retail crime team, and the Illinois Department of Revenue Criminal Investigations Division, executed 11 search warrants in Chicago and one in Oak Park.
They found an estimated $2 million worth of retail products and evidence of a well-developed criminal enterprise, police said.
Thieves stole merchandise from retail establishments throughout the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs, and brought it to the fencing ring operators, police said.
The fencing ring then brought the stolen merchandise to the Chicago and Oak Park locations – where they removed retailer information and sold the items online for profit, police said.
The fencing ring also tried to launder the money by setting up numerous accounts with multiple banks, police said. The participants used the proceeds to make purchases – including multiple residential properties – and to continue the criminal ring, police said.
Esam Abdelhavez, 42, and Mostfa Abdelmalek Abdelhaviz, 33, both of the Northwest Side, were charged with a continuing financial crimes enterprise and money laundering, police said. Hany Abdelhavez, 31, of Oak Park, was charged with felony theft and money laundering.
The defendants all appeared for a bond hearing Wednesday at the Skokie Courthouse.
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