The family, Branko Bogdanov, 58, Lela Bogdanov, 52, and their 34-year-old daughter, Julia Bogdanov were arrested in their home after Secret Service agents followed them on a shoplifting spree in February through Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
They have each been charged with one count of interstate transportation of stolen property. The trio made an appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, but did not enter pleas. They are being held until a detention hearing next week. Reportedly, law enforcement would rather not release them at all, as they are considered a flight risk.
Officials may not have caught them now, if Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us hadn’t contacted the United States Secret Service claiming “a huge loss in merchandise.”
They have stolen least $7 million in merchandise from all over the country ranging from toys, cosmetics, baby items and other valuable things, traveling all over the country in pursuit of the ‘stolen goods’ and then selling them on eBay.
With the help of the companies’ complaint and eBay, authorities were able to trace the stolen items to an online trading account of a cooperating witnesses, who, in turn, agreed to help in the investigation of the Bogdanovs.
The witness, who wishes to remain unnamed, bought many of the stolen items at the Bogdanov home. Those items included everything from American Girl dolls and Furby robotic toys to coffee and steak knives. The witness then sold them online through eBay. Alone, the Bogdanovs directly sold more than $690,000 in merchandise through eBay, the complaint says.
Their criminal operation included the mother, Lela, wearing a long black skirt with large compartments sewn on the inside for use during the theft. Fortunately, she was caught on surveillance cameras leaving some stores with her skirt looking notably fuller than when she entered, the complaint says.
The head of the Secret Service office in Chicago, Frank P. Benedetto, said large-scale shoplifting hurts not only the retailers, but also the consumers.
“If this type of crime continues unchecked, the costs … will be passed from the retailer to the common shopper,” he said.
If the family is convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of 10 years, a $250,000 fine and restitution payments.
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