BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) — It’s called another symptom of the opioid crisis – an increase in retail theft.
Now, the owner of two Bucks County pawn shops is facing charges he was buying stolen goods and selling them — allegedly netting a $400,000 profit.
The investigation started when stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and CVS noticed a rise in thefts in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, says Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“As the investigation grew, police discovered it was actually a multi-county operation involving at least four other stores: one in Philadelphia, two in Delaware County and one in Montgomery County,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro says the investigation to those other store owners continues, but they’ve charged Michael Stein, the owner of Levittown Quick Cash Trading Post and Morrisville Loan and Pawn, and four of his employees with buying and reselling nearly $700,000 worth of stolen merchandise.
They’ve also charged 27 so-called boosters, the people who are accused of stealing the items, often to get money to support a drug habit.
“The boosters stole kitchen faucets, and blenders and vacuum cleaners. They stole vacuum cleaners,” said Shapiro.
In all, Shapiro says they’ve tracked about 5,000 stolen items.
According to a grand jury, the employees of the stores operated under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” order.
“As long as the thieves didn’t say the items were stolen, the pawn shop employees never asked,” said Shapiro.
Shapiro says this part of a national trend, which he attributes to the opioid crisis, adding the rise in retail theft will result in increased prices for everyone.