Camden bodegas busted

CAMDEN, N.J. - November 21, 2008 - All of the stores were suspected of being tied to a sophisticated shoplifting.

Police called it "Operation Bullseye."

Authorities confiscated boxes of merchandise they say contained more than $100,000 worth of suspected stolen goods.

"This operation this morning, we believe, has made a substantial dent in organized shoplifting which has been taking place over three or four years," said Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk.

The bodegas raided are B&B Grocery, La Popular, Williams, Erika's, Nino's and Jaquez.

Faulk alleges the owners would give area drug users a shopping list of items, mostly health & beauty aids and baby formula. Faulk says the addicts made a few bucks to feed their habit and the stolen items are sold out of the area.

The six month investigation involving undercover police was named "Operation Bullseye" after the logo for Target stores. The retailer was among the victims along with Wegmans, CVS, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, B.J.'s and Giant.

"Organized retail theft costs, nationally, about $40 billion per year," said Tina-Marie Pilaet of Target. "In New Jersey, it's estimated to cost about $1 billion, which comes out to about $70 million in lost tax revenue."

Three people are charged under a two year old law with being a leader of organized retail theft, which carries a five-to-ten year prison term.

Five others are charged with receiving stolen property.

Coincidentally, one of the alleged leaders, Aiel Bernard, was arrested Wednesday night on the New Jersey Turnpike as he loaded boxes into a van registered in New York. Police who made the arrest were unaware of this investigation.

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