Massive Shoplifting Scheme Targeting Major Retail Stores Shut Down

Charleston - A collaborative effort by law enforcement, and corporate loss prevention officers has led to the takedown of a fencing operation in the Metro area.

At a press conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced the arrest of Nedeltcho Vladimirov on charges of money laundering.  The criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court alleges Vladimirov, a native of Bulgaria, operated a fraudulent fencing scheme for several years where he would buy merchandise stolen from retail outlets at a fraction of the price, and sell the merchandise for a profit online.

“The scale of this shoplifting scheme is extraordinary,” Stuart said. “Nearly 4,000 items and nearly $400,000 in goods were stolen from retailers like Target, CVS and Kroger in approximately two years.”

The charges and arrest result from an investigation by the United States Secret Service, the West Virginia State Police -Bureau of Criminal Investigations, the Putnam and Kanawha County Sheriff's departments, the South Charleston Police Department, and the Organized Retail Crimes investigators from Kroger, CVS Pharmacy, and Target Corporation, with assistance from eBay, Inc. The investigation began after ORC investigators apprehended shoplifters at several stores in the South Charleston area.

The complaint alleges that the shoplifters (known as “boosters”) were acting at the direction of Vladimirov, who would purchase the items from boosters with cash at a fraction of the retail value and would then resell them on the internet. Law enforcement used several investigative tools, including surveillance and undercover operations, to reveal the full scope of the illegal operation.

Records obtained by investigators show that a user account believed to be associated with Vladimirov sold at least 3,676 items for a total of $369,818.62 from late 2017 to late 2019 and it is believed that the stolen goods generated over $200,000 in sales from January 2019 to January 2020.

“We believe that Vladimirov received over $200,000 from selling the stolen goods in just a single year,“ Stuart said. “Like many consumers, I shop at Kroger, CVS and Target. The volume of theft is almost unbelievable.”

“Additionally, one of the great tragedies in this scheme is that it fed the need for instant money by many shoplifters who were feeding their exhaustive search for drug cash.  Schemes like this only serve to further and advance the crisis of addiction in our communities.”

Due to the complexity of the scheme, Stuart said the investigation is on-going, and could result in additional arrests.

Comments powered by Disqus