DEARBORN, Mich. (FOX 2) - The Dearborn Police Department announced Monday that officers broke up a major retail fraud ring. They say everything from guns to liquor and even energy drinks were stolen.
Dearborn police said they recovered a trove of stolen goods, including $600,000 in cash - some of which was stuffed in a Velveeta box - as part of an organized crime ring run by a 70-year-old woman.
That woman, identified as Beverly Jo Sassin, was running the crime ring out of her business - the Cas Bar - on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, according to Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad.
"It's a million dollar operation. This is not somebody looking for a deal at Christmas time or buying some used merchandise from a friend. This is an ongoing criminal enterprise that victimizes everyone," Haddad said.
Dearborn police and the Wayne County prosecutors said the organized retail fraud ring had been running for some time. Also arrested were 38-year-old Amanda Lynn Mosed, 49-year-old Jodie Beth Welbes, and 45-year-old Christopher Bucannon.
Investigators said heroin addicts were being paid to steal from places like Target, Home Depot, Kroger and Meijer, as part of a fencing operation with the stolen goods then being sold out of Cas Bar.
A strange array of stuff, from ceiling fans to Instant Pots to coffee and air freshener, was found, plus lots of liquor and Red Bull.
"These four people were in a position to move a lot of stuff in a hurry," Haddad said. "It's organized and they know exactly what they're doing."
Monday, police displayed several of the stolen items but said it was just a fraction of what was actually confiscated. They executed multiple search warrants at multiple locations, not just at Cas Bar.
A bartender inside Cas Bar would not comment.
Investigators say organized retail fraud has become a major problem and is costing businesses money while driving up prices and, overall, hurting society. They say it's not just happening at brick and mortar businesses but is happening online and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office established a business protection unit specifically to deal with this increase in crime.
"This is a prominent crime that is happening in our communities and the message is that we are no longer tolerating it," Prosecutor Fadwa Hammoud said.