"They were just that good at what they did," stated Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
The investigation began over seven months ago after two people were caught shoplifting $4,500 in merchandise from a Publix in Mulberry FL. Several law-enforcement agencies were involved before the arrests weremade this week.
Eighteen people suspected in taking part in the theft ring now face racketeering charges, including Kerry A Coburn, 39 and Steven Lee Coburn, 46 of Lake Mary FL. Authorities state that they believe the Coburns headed the operation that may have stolen up to $100 million worth of health and beauty products from grocery and retail stores in the past five years.
"They were so good at what they did, you could literally watch them steal and not be aware of what they were doing," stated Judd.
Judd stated that the detectives were shocked when they learned of the magnitude of the thefts. The theft ring involved more than a dozen "boosters" who paired up to systematically take products off the shelves at Target, Wal-Mart and various grocery chains. Judd added that the "boosters" would hit eight stores a day and within three minutes, grab about $4,000 in merchandise.
They would grab specific items and hide them in specially designed purses to conceal their thefts. Detectives watched surveillance video from various stores and in one case, a supermarket supervisor walked down the aisle past the "boosters" while they were stealing. Judd stated that the suspects were just that good at stealing.
The stolen merchandise was sold on the at Florida flea markets and on the internet through a site called sale awaysavings.com. According to state records, Steve Coburn is the director of that company, which sells drugstore like products. He is also listed as the director of Suncoast Liquidation of Lake Mary FL.
Judd stated that the Coburn's did not deal directly with the 13 "boosters" who they describe as relatives or friends of each other. Authorities state that Theresa Parrish, 44 and Ronald Parrish, 41 of Tampa dealt with them. Teresa reportedly gave the "boosters" shopping lists of what products were to be stolen.
On Thursday, 92 law-enforcement officers involved in "Operation Beauty Shop" served warrents at homes and business warehouses throughout Central Florida and Tampa Bay. The Coburns and most of the suspects were placed in custody. Authorities are not sure how many stores were robbed over the five years but they feel that the thieves hit almost every supermarket in Central Florida.
Once again, people have shown us how to make a tidy profit............ keep your overhead low and the profit margin widens immensely. Unfortunately, others suffered the loss for their gain over the past five years.