Five women arrested in San Antonio are believed to have ties to an international retail theft ring suspected in millions of dollars of thefts from high end stores across the United States, as well as in Australia, South America, and Canada, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"This operation was international in scope," said Vincent Giglio, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said when the five were arrested, enough stolen property was seized to fill a truck, valued at more than a half million dollars.
"Stores that were targeted were high end retail stores, such as Coach, Williams-Sonoma, Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Dooney and Bourke, and Vera Bradley," McManus said. "They also recovered a large amount of cash, and a number of fake passports and travel documents."
"Based on what we see, they are probably smuggling these items out of the United States, for retail sale in other parts of the world," Giglio said.
Investigators say they were tipped that the San Antonio thefts were connected to the international ring when federal investigators received a call from Australian authorities, who reported that the ring was responsible for the theft of as much as four million dollars in jewelry from retail stores there.
"When we found a large number of forged travel documents, we realized this investigation was global in nature," he said. "We are sure we are into a large global smuggling operation."
McManus says the investigation was conducted with the assistance of internal security officials for the retail stores, and he credited the 'pro active' approach of the retailers with leading to the arrests.
San Antonio Police Sergeant Dan Anders, who was the lead detective in the investigation, says the individuals arrested in San Antonio were using sophisticated electronic devices to steal items from the stores.
"They usually worked in groups, and used devices to bypass the security measures," Anders said.
Anders said the 'high volume' of items that were stolen by this ring was noteworthy.
"We recovered about $30,000 just in cologne stolen from Abercrombie and Fitch."
Giglio says he is in touch with investigators in other countries and says he is confident that the arrests in Texas will lead to arrests of other members of the organization elsewhere.