Major Crimes Task Force detectives have arrested six people as part of an investigation into widespread liquor theft in the Seattle area, including several people who were buying booze stolen from Seattle stores to resell to high schoolers and wedding parties.
Since Washington retailers began selling liquor on June 1st, grocery stores’ liquor aisles have become lucrative targets for thieves.
After North Precinct patrol officers busted a liquor shoplifter earlier this year, police started to learn more about who was stealing liquor from Seattle stores, and where that stolen liquor was going. The shoplifter told police that after liquor first went on sale in retail stores in June, he stole $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 worth of alcohol in one month, and has routinely stolen $10,000 to $20,000 worth of liquor every month since.
The shoplifter agreed to work with police to bust liquor thieves, and told detectives from SPD’s Major Crimes Task Force (MCTF) that employees at two businesses in the Pike Place Market and a parking garage in downtown Seattle were buying stolen booze.
Over a six-week period, the MCTF sent in undercover detectives to the two Pike Place businesses and the downtown parking lot, where they sold supposedly stolen liquor— actually provided by the loss prevention departments of major grocers like Safeway and QFC—for pennies on the dollar.
During the investigation, an undercover detective went into Pike Place Flowers and asked about setting up a flower arrangement for a wedding. The owner said that in addition to the flowers, he could also sell him liquor for the wedding.
After the detective put in his liquor order with the flower shop owner, the owner turned around and called a shoplifter, who was working with police, and provided a shopping list of liquor he needed stolen.
An 18-year-old employee at another Pike Place Market business also ordered up 120 supposedly stolen bottles of liquor from police. Detectives made their delivery, and immediately arrested the teen.
After his arrest, the 18-year-old man told detectives he was reselling the liquor to Seattle high school students.
As a result of Operation Cheapshots, detectives arrested six people, and booked four of them into the King County Jail for investigation of trafficking stolen property.
MCTF also recovered 451 bottles of liquor and 11 firearms as a result of the operation.