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Police bust Oklahoma retail theft ring; 29 charged

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Police bust Oklahoma retail theft ring; 29 charged
Authorities said the Oklahoma-based retail theft ring stole more than $10 million worth of goods from stores such as Walmart and Costco. Photo courtesy of Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Federal and state authorities have charged more than two dozen people accused of being part of a complex retail theft ring operating out of Northeastern Oklahoma that stole millions of dollars in merchandise from stores.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma with the office of the Oklahoma attorney general announced Thursday that 29 people have been charged with participating in the ring with five defendants still outstanding.

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According to court documents, the scheme consisted of people known as boosters stealing merchandise and over-the-counter medicine from retail stores that would then be sold often for half the tag price to out-of-state fencers who would turn a profit by re-selling the stolen products online through sites such as eBay and Amazon.

Prosecutors have accused a woman by the name of Linda Been of being the head of the ring. The court documents state she would give the boosters a detailed list of items to steal and how much she would pay them for each one. She would then pay them for their services through PayPal, Venmo and Cash App or sometimes in drugs.

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"Been and her team of boosters allegedly stole products from retailers in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and Colorado," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma said in a statement, adding Been would pay the boosters expenses for out-of-state travel as well as for their bond when arrested.

Defendants by the names of Billy Osborne, Juston Osborne, Corey Fields and Amanda Johnson have been charged with helping to manage the operation by storing stolen merchandise at their residences or businesses as well as prepping it for bulk shipments to out-of-state fencers.

According to court documents, the ring made some $4.5 million on their $10 million worth of goods stolen from Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, Walgreens, CVS and other similar retail stores.

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Authorities said they linked Been to the ring after an organized crime investigator at a retail pharmacy told the Tulsa Police Department in December 2019 about bulk thefts in the city.

The federal investigation was launched after it was determined that the operation crossed state lines.

"This investigation was complex, challenging and lengthy," Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor said in a statement. "These are serious crimes. Organized crime is on the rise nationwide, and my office is committed to holding criminals accountable for their actions."

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