TULSA, Okla. — 29 people are facing 214 state and Federal charges for being part of a multi-state theft ring where personal care items and over-the-counter drugs were stolen from pharmacies, grocery stores, and big box stories and then sold online often for the same price they were being sold in stores for.
Thursday, local, state, and Federal law enforcement representatives laid out a plan that started back in 2016 and was only recently shut down. The ring started back in 2018. The multi-state theft ring was discovered by Tulsa Police Department Officer Kayla Johnson who decided to dig deeper into a shoplifting incident from a Tulsa store back in December 2019. That’s, when the investigation began.
“She felt like this was more than just the run-of-the-mill shoplifting case, and her suspicions were right,” TPD Chief Wendell Franklin said.
Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson said the ring leader of the operation was Linda Ann Been (also known with the last name Gann). Bean paid people to supply her operation.
The thefts were of personal care items and over-the-counter medications such as: Allegra, Prevagen, Zantac, Rogaine, Zyrtex, Viviscal, Mucinex, Claritin, Culturelle, Flonase, Nasacort, and assorted vitamin products.
“She would sell these items online for about the same price if not a little less than what the store was charging for them,” Johnson said. “She would split the profits with the people who got her the items. People who bought these items had no assurance of quality or safety standards.”
Johnson said Been would put out a spreadsheet of items she wanted to sell online through Amazon and eBay, and her associates would go to stores mostly around the Tulsa metro, but also across Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, and even Florida to get the items. The operation’s total thefts would equate to around $10 Million in goods, and Been herself, court documents state, made $4.5 Million herself.
At one point, Been had so much product she began to store them at two businesses associated with her in Sand Springs, the Suburban Revival Boutique and C&B Welding and Fabrication.
When an associate or “booster” would be arrested for theft, Been would either secure their bond so they could get out and keep working, or she would fill and replenish their commissary account so they wouldn’t be motivated to rat out the operation to police.
“When people steal items like this, it drives up the costs to consumers like you and me,” Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said. “If we don’t get this under control, prices will keep rising on us aside from what we’re feeling with inflation.”
Johnson said Been and her associates will have to pay some form of restitution for their alleged thefts if convicted in addition to jail time.
While authorities would not confirm if these people were drug addicts looking to support a habit, Johnson said these people clearly had “a need” in their lives, and they needed the money for whatever their other endeavors were.
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