Glasgow’s Strategy to Combat Organized Retail Crime Garnering National Attention

May 24, 2024

JOLIET —Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s innovative strategies in the war against organized retail crime are gaining nationwide attention. Working alongside federal state and local law enforcement agencies, and retail partners, Glasgow’s Office is prioritizing taking down those individuals higher up in the criminal enterprise who conspire with others to steal large quantities of products and then resell the stolen products for profit.

“When we think about retail theft, what typically comes to mind is an individual shoplifter who steals items for personal consumption or individual profit. But today’s retail theft is much more complex, as we have all seen from the dramatic video footage of major smash-and-grab and large-scale theft incidents at large and small retailers across the country,” Glasgow said. “These are targeted thefts using methods of coordinated and planned attacks on retailers, run by organized retail crime enterprises. These enterprises typically involve a group of individuals who steal large quantities of merchandise from numerous stores and sell the stolen merchandise, or run fencing operations that purchase stolen merchandise from individual retail thieves and then resell the merchandise. The stolen items are often sold through online auction sites, or even to other retailers.”

Working with the retailers is a crucial aspect of Glasgow’s initiative. To that end, Assistant State’s Attorneys Michael Casson and Dant Foulk recently spoke at a conference organized by the nation’s largest retail association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, about effective cooperation and coordination between prosecutors, federal, state, and local law enforcement, and retailers in countering the escalating organized retail crime incidents nationwide.

“Organized retail crime is one of the biggest issues facing the retail industry today, in terms of both financial loss and safety, as these types of crimes pose a major safety threat to retail workers and customers,” Casson said.  “These criminal operations are typically divided into boosters, fences and diverters. Boosters steal goods, fences purchase stolen goods for resale and sell them to diverters in bulk shipments, and diverters resell the products online or in person or back to smaller retailers.  Our strategy targets the means, market, and money involved in organized retail crime.”

Organizers of these criminal enterprises also utilize individuals to “clean” the merchandise. The cleaner’s job is to make sure stolen goods do not have indications that they were acquired through theft – such as anti-theft stickers and devices or store labels.  In a recent organized retail theft case, during search warrant executions at a cleaning location, Homeland Security Agents located numerous females who had been trafficked into the United States and were working in the cleaning station against their will. An HSI human trafficking team was dispatched to aid these victims and take over that part of the case.

According to Foulk, “These stolen goods are often distributed to a wide network of different diverters, many times across state lines. Combating these types of operations requires coordination between retailers and government authorities across many geographical areas.  This cooperation allows working groups to track patterns of sales, movement of money, and identify and prosecute additional co-conspirators.”

Among the notable prosecutions resulting from this effort were the indictments brought in 2022 against 10 individuals charged in a multi-state, organized criminal retail theft fencing operation for stolen merchandise operating in the Chicagoland area involving approximately $7.5 million in retail products. Retail thefts in Wilmette led to the identification of the fencing ring, and a cooperative multi-jurisdictional working group was formed to undertake the investigation after these thefts were linked to ongoing retail thefts occurring in Shorewood and Will County.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office worked with agencies including Homeland Security Investigations, the Shorewood, Wilmette, and Chicago Police Departments, the Will County Cooperative Police Assistance Team, the Illinois Department of Revenue, the Illinois State Police, and California Highway Patrol, Kroger’s Organized Retail Crime Unit, the CVS Organized Retail Crime Team, Walgreens, and Target on a yearlong undercover investigation into the sophisticated retail theft fencing operation. The private sector retail partners were invaluable members of the working group.

“Collaboration between retailers, law enforcement, and prosecutors is crucial to our efforts to combat retail theft, keep stores safe, and restore vibrancy to communities across the country,” said RILA’s Senior Executive Vice President of Retail Operations Lisa LaBruno. “Will County’s recent success in prosecuting a multi-state, years-long organized retail theft operation, with the help of multiple law enforcement offices and retailers, is a case study for how collaboration pays dividends for communities.”

Glasgow’s office was recognized by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations for its novel and innovative approach to prosecuting these criminal enterprises, receiving the 2023 Prosecuting Agency of the Year Award.

State’s Attorney Glasgow (right), Assistant State’s Attorney Dant Foulk (second from left) with federal officials, receiving 2023 Prosecuting Agency of the Year Award from Homeland Security Investigations.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Mike Casson (left) and Dant Foulk

Assistant State’s Attorneys Casson and Foulk speaking to audience at national Retail Industry Leaders Association conference.