A St. Paul police operation dubbed "Operation Pacifier" has taken aim at the suspected fencing of popular items stolen from big-box retailers.
The effort was launched this summer by Sgt. Charles Anderson, who had noticed the same goods being stolen from large retailers along University Avenue and suspected they were reappearing at mom-and-pop stores at lower prices. Operation Pacifier is named in part for baby formula, a common target.
Rather than thieves, authorities went after stores that might be reselling goods, because they create the demand fueling the thefts, Anderson said. In the past several weeks, six people from four stores have been charged.
"To hold a license [to run a business] is a privilege, and if you're going to run a business in our city, we want to make sure you are a reputable and responsible business owner," said Ricardo Cervantes, director of the city's Department of Safety and Inspections.
An informant sold purportedly stolen goods to several small stores, authorities said. In one case, defendants allegedly bought bottles of Tide laundry detergent for $2 to $4 each and sold them for $9.99. At the time, the retail price of a 2.95-liter bottle was $11.99.
"These mom-and-pop stores, basically the only things they sell are chips and pop," Anderson said. "It's very expensive for them to bring inventory on their shelves. If they can acquire that merchandise at a very low cost ... they can make a huge profit, and they can provide the variety they can't usually provide."
The thieves, called "boosters," are often chronic offenders looking to feed a drug or alcohol addiction, Anderson said. Popular items include Similac baby formula, Tide, men's razor blades, diapers and over-the-counter medications.
Charged in the sting have been:
Ammar A. Chanyour, 30, of Vas Market in the 100 block of N. Victoria Street, and employee Farhan Abbodi Hwish Almudor, 43. They were each charged Tuesday with two counts of attempting to receive stolen property and conspiracy to receive stolen property.
Amanuel M. Sahle, 43, the owner of Piazza Market in the 500 block of N. Snelling Avenue, and employee Esayas M. Sahle, 28, each charged with attempting to receive stolen property and conspiracy to receive stolen property.
Abdul R. Abukhdeir, 51, who worked at Sam's Dairy, charged in August with receiving stolen property.
Gebre M. Mohammed, 54, charged in August with conspiracy to receive stolen property and attempting to receive stolen property. He was the manager of Yasin Market.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib