The three were arrested earlier this week at their $1.3 million Northbrook home after returning from a three-day trip through Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, where authorities say they shoplifted from stores. Working in tandem, the family traveled from their Chicago-area residence to hit businesses in multiple states, including Maryland, Tennessee and Florida, according to the 20-page complaint.
Branko Bogdanov, 58, Lela Bogdanov, 52, and their 34-year-old daughter, Julia Bogdanov, are charged with one count each of interstate transportation of stolen property. They made initial appearances Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, but did not enter pleas; they'll be held at least until a detention hearing next week. Someone who answered a phone at their Northbrook residence declined any comment.
Lela Bogdanov frequently donned a long black skirt with large compartments sewn on the inside during the alleged shoplifting binges and was caught on surveillance cameras leaving some stores with her skirt looking notably fuller than when she entered, the complaint says.
Standing in orange jail clothes Wednesday in federal court, Lela Bogdanov wiped away tears as U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason explained her rights. She followed the proceedings through a Romani interpreter.
An unnamed cooperating witness bought many of the stolen items - which included everything from American Girl dolls and Furby robotic toys to coffee and steak knives - at the Bogdanov home, then sold them online through eBay, the complaint says. On their own, Bogdanovs directly sold more than $690,000 in merchandise through eBay, the complaint says.
The United States Secret Service led the investigation after Barnes and Noble Inc. and Toys R Us Inc. contacted the agency about what the complaint describes as "a huge loss in merchandise." With the help of those companies and eBay, authorities traced stolen items to an the online trading account of the cooperating witnesses, who, in turn, agreed to help in the investigation of the Bogdanovs.
Speaking to reporters later Wednesday, the head of the Secret Service office in Chicago, Frank P. Benedetto, said large-scale shoplifting ultimately hurts both stores and their consumers.
"If this type of crime continues unchecked, the costs ... will be passed from the retailer to the common shopper," he said.
A conviction on the one count of interstate transportation of stolen property carries sentence of up to 10 years.