July 13, 2012 at 11:38 AM ET
In a bust that gives new meaning to the term “white-collar crime,” authorities in suburban Washington, D.C., broke up a ring of thieves who bought stolen Tide laundry detergent and exported it for resale in Vietnam.
Police in Prince George’s County, Md., discovered the dirty trade in the cleaning product and set up a sting, then carried out a midday raid on the Star Nails salon in the town of Capitol Heights. Five nail technicians were arrested. “We have them for up to $6,000 here,” a police department representative told the local NBC affiliate. Further investigations are expected.
A survey published last month by the National Retail Federation found that 96 percent of stores have been the victims of organized retail crime — an all-time high. “Selling this stolen merchandise is a growing criminal enterprise,” NRF vice president of loss prevention Rich Mellor said in a statement.
Specifically, shoplifting Tide is big business. This spring, a thief was busted with a stash worth $25,000, and there were reports from around the country of retailers losing profits as criminals targeted the laundry detergent. The Associated Press reported that some stores even resorted to putting anti-theft tags on the containers or locking them up to deter criminals.
Government statistics shows that the price of household cleaning products has been ticking up even as wages stagnate and unemployment remains stubbornly high, making household staples like laundry detergent increasingly attractive to shoplifters. Authorities in the Maryland case also found personal care items like razor blades intended for export when they carried out the raid.
But the overseas buyers of this stolen Tide weren’t getting such a hot deal; the crooks were diluting the detergent with water, NBC reported.
Tide manufacturer Procter & Gamble’s stock got a boost this week following media reports that activist investor William Ackman has been buying stock in the consumer products giant and may further increase his holdings.
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