Florida racketeering suspects stole baby food, diapers to sell on black market, deputies say

$84,000 worth of items stolen

Deputies say this surveillance still shows Andrea Mack, left, and Rantevia Singleton, right, stealing baby formula from Publix. (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A group of men and women worked together to steal more than $84,000 worth of baby formula, diapers and other high-priced items from grocery stores across Florida so they could then be sold on the black market, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said they’ve made seven arrests in connection with the investigation that began in August 2019 and they’re still looking for one suspect, Beatrice Johnson.

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Records show Johnson, Andrea Mack, Ashley Anderson, Adrian Givens and Rantevia Singleton went to Publix, Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores to steal items in 18 different counties: Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Levy, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia.

Surveillance video shows the suspects loading up carts and reusable shopping bags with dozens of cans of baby food, packages of diapers and energy drinks then leaving the store with hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise, according to a news release.

Deputies said those five suspects, known as boosters, would sometimes commit multiple thefts in the same day and the pattern of behavior that began in August 2019 continued into 2020.

After the theft, the boosters would sell the stolen goods to Eshaud Suid, Ahmed Hamdan and Abas Issa, known as fencers, according to authorities. Deputies said those three suspects paid $5 for each stolen item, which they would then turn around and sell on the black market.

“This is an organized group of criminals working together to steal high-dollar items for their own personal profit, by stealing, and then selling the stolen goods on the black market. These suspects are committing felony racketeering and they belong in prison. Our detectives, FDLE, and the Statewide Prosecutors have done a great job with this investigation—working across many jurisdictions in Florida. Our message is simple: If it’s not yours, don’t take it. Don’t steal in Polk County and don’t steal in Florida. If you do, and we catch you, you will go to jail and then prison. Organized retail theft is a big problem in Florida, costing retailers and consumers millions of dollars,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news release.

Statewide Retail Theft Ring Busted

Sheriff Grady Judd is briefing the media about 8 suspects statewide who have been identified and charged during an investigation that started in August of 2019, responsible for the theft and illegal re-sale of high-dollar items such as baby formula, diapers, and energy drinks, resulting in felony charges of grand theft and racketeering, among other crimes. Click here to read the news release https://tinyurl.com/y7chvxj2 Click here to see videos of the suspects committing the thefts https://youtu.be/vcNR1aUvESI

Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Friday, December 18, 2020

Attorney General Ashley Moody, whose office helped investigate the crime ring along with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said customers ultimately end up paying higher prices as a result of thefts.

“This is the second group of retail thieves brought to justice by Sheriff Judd’s deputies and my statewide prosecutors this month. Criminals be warned: We will not allow rampant retail theft to harm Florida businesses and force consumers to pay inflated prices to cover the costs of your indolent, unscrupulous crime sprees. These businesses have to build into their budgets projected losses to organized crime rings and shoplifters. Inevitably, those losses get passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices at the cash register. When crime rings, like this one, steal from retailers, they are essentially stealing from all Floridians,” Moody said.

The eight suspects are facing charges that include racketeering, theft and dealing in stolen property.