Agencies bust major stolen merchandise ring

LOS ANGELES Detectives arrested several members of a black-market enterprise operating in the L.A. area, trafficking common goods.

It was a team effort involving the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The team spent a year investigating a stolen property ring. Their combined efforts netted major arrests.

The suspects are accused of stealing property such as baby formula from stores like Target, Ralphs, Vons Pavilions and CVS. Investigators say they got a lot of assistance from the stores in targeting the suspects and making the major bust.

Detectives say they targeted a black-market criminal enterprise headed by the Hernandez organization operating throughout L.A. County. Agents served nearly 20 search warrants throughout the L.A. region arresting multiple suspects.

"The Hernandez criminal enterprise is believed to be responsible for more than $6 million in stolen retail merchandise during the past several months," said LAPD Captain Steven Sambar. "The merchandise stolen includes infant baby formula, diapers, health and beauty products, hair care products and other over-the-counter medications."

The /*National Retail Federation*/ reports organized retail theft accounts for tens of billions of dollars in losses in the U.S. each year.

"They'll have very sophisticated shoplifters operate out in the field, stealing large quantities of merchandise from stores," said Joseph Larocca, National Retail Federation. "These shoplifters or these criminals will then bring the merchandise back to a business operator or someone that's willing to pay a price for those stolen goods, and those stolen goods are then liquidated through a number of different channels. One might be selling those goods through a traditional location like a swap meet, a pawn shop, a flea market."

Agents said those members of the Hernandez criminal organization who were arrested are charged with various crimes including grand theft, commercial burglary, receiving stolen property, wire fraud, money laundering and more.

Agents said there will be more arrests.

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