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Renton Police recover 200 cans of baby formula headed for Vietnam's black market
Renton Police recovered more than 200 cans of baby formula destined for the black market in Vietnam Thursday morning, following a year-long investigation.
The formula, worth about $5,400, was returned to Safeway and QFC, two of the retailers targeted by thieves in recent months, according to Terri Vickers, a spokeswoman for the Renton Police Department.
Safeway and QFC partnered with Renton Police investigators during the investigation.
The suspect, a 32-year-old Renton woman, was booked into the SCORE regional jail in Des Moines for investigation of felony first-degree attempted trafficking in stolen property. She has yet to be charged.
Police found the baby formula stacked in her living room and in bags on the sofa.
Also arrested Thursday afternoon were a man and a woman who had offered to sell investigators several cans of stolen baby formula, according to Vickers. They were booked into jail for investigation of attempted first-degree trafficking in stolen property. Charges are pending in Pierce County.
The Renton Reporter is not naming the three people because they have yet to be charged.
The Renton woman was the couple's "fence," according to Vickers. A can of the Similac formula costs about $30; the Renton woman paid the couple $15 for a can.
The woman told the couple what she wanted them to steal "Basically, she put in an order," Vickers said.
Undercover officers developed a relationship with the couple, known to have engaged in organized retail theft, who stole thousands of dollars of formula during the investigation. That relationship led investigators to the Renton woman, who had previously purchased the couple's stolen goods, according to Vickers.
During five months this year, the Renton woman purchased from investigators more than $26,000 in what she believed to be stolen merchandise. She told investigators she shipped the stolen baby formula to “her sister in Vietnam.”
The Renton woman was convicted in 2009 in federal court for Use of a Communication Facility in Aid of Racketeering in a federal investigation of brothels disguised as tanning salons and spas, according to Vickers.
“Organized Retail Crime is a growing issue for retailers and for law enforcement. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with Safeway and QFC; without their assistance this case would not have come to fruition,” said Chief Kevin Milosevich.