LAUDERHILL (CBS4) - A Broward County mother is accused of being a prolific thief -- changing the labels on high priced toys at Target and Walmart stores, selling the items online and making off with tens of thousands of dollars.
The suspect -- Barbara Aqueveque -- faces at least 5 felony charges.
Lauderhill Police Detective Alex Iwaskewycz worked the case for months, poring over Aqueveque's bank records, sifting through her trash and following her.
He said when he first learned of the case from Target security, he was surprised at the notion that she had stolen so much merchandise.
"At first I thought, 'This is crazy,'" Det. Iwaskewycz told CBS 4's Carey Codd. "How can it be this easy to steal this much?"
Surveillance video from Target and undercover police officers began to reveal the extent of her operation, Det. Iwaskewycz said.
One video clip from Target store security shows Aqueveque picking up a Lego box, placing a sticker on it and casually walking to the cashier with her young son in tow. The clerk rings up the item and Aqueveque helps bag up the box before walking away.
Det. Iwaskewycz said receipts show Aqueveque often paid less than $7 dollars for Lego toys that retail for more than $100. He said the labels she used were often for inexpensive items like cutting boards and baking pans. The detective said records showed she made lots of money.
"There was months she was making over $30 thousand dollars a month," Det. Iwaskewycz.
When she was arrested, Det. Iwaskewycz said he seized her bank account with more than $36,000 in it.
The detective said every time they trailed her she visited multiple stores and purchased multiple items. Det. Iwaskewycz said she would take orders on her ebay store for specific items then head to the store, change some labels, make her purchases and drive to the post office.
One surveillance clip showed Aqueveque walking into a post office with her arms full of boxes to mail.
CBS 4 tried to speak with Aqueveque but she refused to answer questions. Her attorney, David Kubiliun, also declined comment.
A Target spokesperson said in a statement that, "Target takes incidents of this nature very seriously and we partner closely with local law enforcement to help aid in these investigations."
Det. Iwaskewycz says Aqueveque was so prolific that investigators once saw her switch the label on an inexpensive piece of Easter candy for her son in order to save a dollar or two.
Detective Iwaskewycz says this was a case unlike any he'd ever seen. He added that even though it appears Aqueveque got away with it for more than a year detectives finally cracked the case.
"You may get away with it one, two, three or several times but eventually we'll catch on and they're gonna get caught," he said.
Aqueveque is due back in court next month.
She is originally from Chile. If convicted of these crimes she could be deported.
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