Friday, June 12, 2015

Three Men--Two from Chicago Lawn, One from Back of the Yards, Arrested in Connection With Big Theft Ring

CPD press release just sent to the press at 4:04 p.m. Friday:

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Joint Investigation by CPD and Walgreens
Leads to the Discovery of an Extensive Theft Ring

The Bureau of Organized Crime Intelligence Section
Joins Forces with Walgreens in Theft Investigation

CHICAGO – The Chicago Police Department's Bureau of Organized Crime Intelligence Section was notified by the Walgreens Organized Retail Crime Department of their recent internal theft investigation.

Together they were able to locate and arrest three offenders and recover thousands of dollars in product.

The Walgreens Cooperation has experienced a spike in thefts and burglaries throughout the Midwest Region, both in and around the City of Chicago. This has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. Walgreens utilizes plastic totes as part of their inventory to help easily transport a myriad of merchandise throughout its national system of pharmaceutical stores. A vast number of these plastic totes have been stolen.

An internal investigation by the Walgreens Organized Retail Crime Department led investigators to a warehouse located at 1435 West Exchange Ave., Chicago. The Walgreens' Organized Retail Crime Director, Jerry Biggs, made contact with the building owner, who agreed to cooperate with the investigation. Director Biggs notified Chicago's Bureau of Organized Crime Intelligence Section, which initiated a local investigation.

This investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of stolen plastic totes, pallets, trays and similar plastic products. Over a dozen major corporations and a U.S. Government agency's stolen property was identified. These corporate victims include – the U.S. Postal Service, Walgreens, PepsicoJewel-Osco, Prairie Farms, Turano Baking Company, Chicago Baking Company, Dr. Pepper 7UP Bottling Company of Chicago, Coca-Cola Beverage Company, Alpha Baking Company, Deans Foods Company, Pan-O-Gold Baking Company, Aunt Millie's Bakeries, Bimbo Bakery Company, and CVS Pharmacy. 

These identifiable items have been recovered and are in the process of being returned to
the proper owners.

Also recovered in the warehouse was several tons of pulverized plastic. Through this investigation, it was determined that the stolen plastic products in the warehouse would be reduced to very small plastic pieces with the use of heavy machinery. These tiny pieces would then be put into cardboard containers, sold to an unknown male, who in turn would ship them to China. It is likely that tons of stolen plastic has already been shipped.

The investigation of this international operation has thus far led to three arrests. Omar Castaneda, 45, and Omar Castaneda, 24, both from the 3500 block of West 62nd Street, and Eduardo Centeno, 34 from the 1900 block of West 51st Street. All three have been charged with one misdemeanor count of theft lost/mislaid property/$500-$10K and have a court date of July 7 at Branch 43-2, 3150 W. Flournoy.

Once notified, Walgreens and the Coca-Cola Beverage Company responded with:

"Property theft is a serious issue that all retailers face and it is something we investigate aggressively. This investigation is a great example of how through the Cook County Regional Organized Crime Task Force companies can work with the Chicago Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to address issues that affect the entire community. We thank the police officers and retail investigators that worked diligently together on this investigation," said Jerry Biggs, Director of Organized Retail
Crime at Walgreens.

“Coca-Cola is a proud and committed partner to the City of Chicago and its residents. We would like to thank the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for their leadership, thoroughness and collaboration. As a result of their efforts, we were able to recover materials of significant value,” said Kathleen Strand, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola in Chicago.

Also assisting in this investigation was the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, the
Department of Buildings, and the Chicago Fire Department. This investigation remains on-going.

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