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Eight arrests following corner store raids

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Eight arrests following corner store raids
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Synthetic marijuana, cigarettes, and handguns were just some of the items confiscated by police during an undercover sting operations at several corner stores in the city on Thursday. Katie Gibas reports.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse Police raided seven stores and arrested eight people for allegedly selling stolen goods that range from baby formula to synthetic marijuana to energy drinks.

"This is not shoplifting. This is an organized group of thieves that are selling this product to supply their own and often illicit behavior," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Retailers including Wegmans, Tops and Walgreens have been monitoring "boosters" who steal items from their stores with the goal to resell them. It's called organized retail crime.

"It's a huge issue. Organized retail crime has been around for a long time. As the mayor indicated, it's not shoplifting. Shoplifters come into our stores to steal for their own personal use as opposed to booster come in to resell the product they're boosting. The FBI estimates that organized retail crime standing alone is well over $30 billion per year," said Gary Weisbecker, a Walgreens Representative, Member of the Greater DeWitt Retail Theft Coalition.

That's why some of the larger retailers in Onondaga County organized the Greater DeWitt Retail Theft Coalition.

"The same boosters are hitting Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS. They'll be hitting Tops. They'll be hitting Wegmans. So we share information, intelligence. That way we're able to present our case to law enforcement," said Weisbecker.

"It's a way of sharing information that we can get out to retailers because a lot of these boosters will hit three, four, five stores in a day, going from chain to chain to chain. We're able to share that information, so we're able to pick them up a lot quicker and turn that over to the local police departments," said Rick St. James, a Wegmans Representative, Member of the Greater DeWitt Retail Theft Coalition.

This week was the culmination of a six month undercover investigation into the issue. Police raided seven Syracuse corner stores and arrested eight people for accepting stolen goods with the intent to resell them. Police confiscated a number of items including, baby formula, synthetic marijuana, cigarettes and handguns.

"There were also burglaries that were occurring on the northside area. We believe that some of those proceeds were ending up in these stores as well. So that's why we decided to target the northside area," said Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler.

Detectives used informants who would enter the store with items purported to be stolen and offer to sell the products to the store clerks. An informant was later sent back to the store to find the items they sold were now up for sale.

"It's the behavior that we have a problem with. If you're going to do business in our community, if you're going to business in our neighborhood, you have an obligation to do it right. Our citizens deserve the proper product. They deserve to purchase a product that's properly regulated," said Fowler.

Aside from the $30 billion price tag, retails say organized retail crime also puts consumers' health and safety at risk.

"It takes it out of a chain where you can ensure consumer safety. And so with over-the-counter medication in particular, but also food items, this becomes a significant consumer safety issue," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Weisbecker added, "A lot of that product gets integrated back into the supply chain as legitimate product. But in the meantime, before it gets back into the supply chain, where's it being stored? What conditions is it being stored under? Climate controlled? No, not at all. So that diabetic test strips, when the individual buys that six months down the road, how effective is that reading that they're getting from those diabetic test strips?"

Both the Mayor and Police Chief say this is not the end of their effort. They will continue to hit the issue from every angle including code enforcement, zoning and police.

"I hope this sends a strong message to anyone out there that has a corner store, any store, and you're going to try to purchase stolen property to resell it back to members of our community, this is not going to be the last time we conduct an investigation like this," said Fowler.

The suspects were charged with Attempted Criminal Possession of Stolen Property and a local law charge of selling second hand goods without a license. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The full list of the corner stores targeted, the people arrested and the charges against them are listed below.

DADDY'S PLACE - 339 Wolf Street, Syracuse
*Suspect#1: Ali Alshaikh 02/16/1974
13-383059 - Local Law Violation
13-410018- Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-410021 - Local Law Violation
13-431558 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
Johnny 5 Inc. - 1012 Park Street, Syracuse
* Suspect #2: Aziz Nagi - 02/28/1977
13-360160 - Local Law Violation
13-383060 - Local Law Violation
* Suspect #3: Bassem Omran 08/21/1975
13-377725 - Local Law Violation
13-390089 - Local Law Violation
Valero Gas - 1131 N. Salina Street, Syracuse
* Suspect #4: Adel Hassan - 11/12/1974
13-377729 - Local Law Violation
13-442041 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-451682 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-456873 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
#1 Convenience Store - 1000 Butternut Street, Syracuse
* Suspect #5: Marwan Zahran - 03/27/1967
13-410397 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-479581 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-487142 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th

AL’s Market - 448 Hawley Ave, Syracuse
* Suspect #6: Emmanuel Nyeijohn - 01/01/1988
13-442-015 - Local Law Violation
13-451676 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
* Suspect #7: Not arrested at this time
13-409949 - Local Law Violation
13-431492 - Local Law Violation

Upstate Market - 124 Merriman Ave, Syracuse
* Suspect #8: Khaled Obaid - 08/20/1979
13-456875 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-467879 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-479584 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-487144 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
1st North Market - 717 Kirkpatrick Street, Syracuse
* Suspect #9: Ahmad Salman - 01/29/1988
13-443272 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th
13-467847 - Local Law Violation & Att Crim. Poss. of Stolen Property 5th

All Defendants will appear in Syracuse City Court on January 6, 2014.

CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Eight arrests following corner store raids
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