Vancouver police bust ‘underground’ retail store at Victoria Drive apartment 0
The Vancouver police display $250,000 in suspected stolen merchandise at a press conference in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday December 11, 2013. Police have two suspects after an investigation into a stolen property ring, the name brand clothing and merchandise is believed to have been stolen from retailers throughout the lower mainland. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Vancouver police are tracing barcodes on an estimated $250,000 worth of clothing items and accessories believed to be pilfered from stores and sold illegally at discounts of up to 50% in a Victoria Drive apartment.
Police say that during surveillance leading to a bust on Dec. 7, they found shoppers perusing the shop as others arrived to drop off bags of clothes believed to be freshly stolen merchandise.
Two women were arrested from the 5300-block apartment and charges are pending, police said. Many of the customers found the shop through word-of-mouth, or likely online via Facebook and Craigslist.
None of the alleged thieves — who dropped off anywhere from three to four fabric bags of goods — have been found.
Const. Jennifer Weber said police would use the barcodes to track when inventory went missing, and then use surveillance footage to identify possible thieves.
Most of the products were winter jackets and included top brands like Mexx, North Face, Arc’teryx and children’s Gymboree clothes. Accessories such as clutches, purses and sunglasses were also on display, along with designer items from such brands as Tiffany and Co. About $7,000 in alcohol, mostly wines, was also recovered.
Police stopped dozens of shoppers, including a mom browsing with her daughters, during the raid.
“A lot of people didn’t want to make a lot of comments, I think they were embarrassed at being stopped by police and having to hand over your name and information,” Weber said.
She said the force also seized a popular phone line used to run the evening-only store. Police have yet to obtain a warrant to search the contents of the phone — and as a result, don’t yet know how long the store had been operating.
Weber said buyers logged in the phone’s history would be contacted when a warrant is obtained.
Despite many of the clothes being in season, she said it’s not believed the store popped up to exploit the Christmas shopping season.
“(In about an hour) there was probably 30 to 40 phone calls of people wondering if the store was open,” Weber added.