WILMETTE, Ill. — Authorities busted a retail theft operation that stretched from Chicago to California busted as part of an undercover investigation, according to Wilmette police.

Eight people are in police custody and an estimated $7.5 million worth of product and evidence that police say were part of a “sophisticated criminal enterprise” has since been recovered.

Over-the-counter products, medication, health care products, and beauty supplies made up 128 pallets of stolen items seized by authorities, according to Wilmette Chief of Police Kyle Murphy.  

“It all started with a retail theft in Wilmette,” said Murphy, adding that an officer asked the appropriate questions and found out the group’s fencing location.

Last week, officers executed 12 search warrants in Chicago, Cicero, Oak Lawn, Bolingbrook, and three in California. Officials found close to 300,000 individual stolen items.   

Last week, officers executed 12 search warrants in Chicago, Cicero, Oak Lawn, Bolingbrook, and three in California. (Photo: WGN)

“Over the course of a year, these products are coming through these fencing locations and then being transported and shipped out,” Murphy said. “So this is just a snapshot of the products that are part of this investigation over a yearlong time frame.” 

Murphy adds that the culprits stoles items straight off the shelves.

“This product was eventually being shipped out, to third parties, out of state, east coast, west coast and ultimately resold in online market places.” 

Of the eight people arrested, five were from the Chicago area; three reside in California. Authorities will extradite the locals to Illinois for prosecution. 

Law enforcement used the incident to remind consumers to be vigilant when purchasing products.   

“There’s a market for this and that’s why these items are being stolen, and that’s why they’re being resold,” Murphy said. “So as a consumer, you should be purchasing these products from known major retailers and avoid those online marketplaces.” 

The local participants of the retail theft ring will appear in court on Oct. 26.