Working off an informant’s tip, police in River Forest and Chicago recently made three arrests in connection with a multi-state fencing ring.
On Tuesday, July 8, the River Forest Police Department announced the arrests of Yacoub Khalifeh and Wael Jarwan of Chicago and Najeh Hamad of Oak Lawn — suspects in a “large-scale fencing operation” based out of a grocery store located on the 3700 block of W. Chicago Avenue.
Police said the three suspects were involved in a scheme in which stolen retail merchandise would be purchased “for approximately 10 cents on the dollar,” then resold in the Chicago region and shipped to at least two locations in New York on a weekly basis. The investigation also turned up records “that indicated that some money netted from the sale of the stolen property was electronically transferred to the country of Jordon.”
“These fencing operations become a haven for other types of illegal activity for both residential and business districts, which in turn negatively affects the quality of life of residents and puts them at a higher risk for being crime victims,” River Forest police said.
The investigation was initiated by the RFPD after an offender who had been taken in for retail theft informed investigators that stolen goods from CVS and Walgreens stores were being repurchased by individuals operating out of Asiel Food and Restaurant in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.
On July 1, police executed warrants at the store and at the suspects’ residences.
Khalifeh, 54, was charged with a Class X felony as an organizer of a financial crime enterprise; Jarwan, 43, was charged with Class 3 felony theft; and Hamad, 44, was charged with misdemeanor theft. Police recovered cash, a number of vehicles and $19,000 worth of stolen retail goods throughout the operation.
“This investigation was an excellent example of the cooperation and teamwork needed by multiple law enforcement agencies and private companies to take down this large scale illegal operation,” said River Forest Police Deputy Chief James O’Shea. “This case demonstrates how an everyday crime, such as retail theft, can evolve into a very profitable continuing criminal enterprise, where the illegal profits are not only used locally or regionally but are sent across the globe.”
The investigation into the fencing operation was carried out in collaboration between the River Forest Police Department, the Chicago Police Department, the Porter County Sheriff’s Office, the Cook County Regional Organized Crime Task Force, the Cook County State Attorneys Office, Walgreens Organized Crime Task Force and CVS Regional Crime Investigations.