The owner of a Chinatown discount store and two of her workers orchestrated a downtown shoplifting ring with which to stock their own shelves, prosecutors charged today.
Phuong Quach, 54, of Dorchester, and her employees Feng Deng, 71, of Quincy, and Cindy Tran, 49, of Malden, were arrested last night and arraigned today on charges of receiving stolen property over $250 and distributing counterfeit goods. They were also charged with aggravated organized retail crime, a newly categorized crime under a law passed in April, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports, adding they may be the first people in the state to be charged with the crime.
The three were arrested after a 10-month investigation by Boston Police into a spate of shoplifting incidents in downtown stores, in which the three allegedly recruited shoplifters and told them the specific items they wanted, so that they could resell them at Quach's My-Tan Fashion and Super 99¢ Plus on Washington Street, prosecutors and police say.
Based on evidence gathered during "Operation Sunblock" by Boston Police detectives assigned to District A-1, retailers across the downtown area have apprehended and debriefed numerous shoplifters since at least January and learned that they regularly stole from these businesses and sold the stolen goods at My-Tan Fashion. The interrupted thefts ran from razors and lotion to designer clothes and shoes.
Plainclothes investigators observed store brand products offered for sale with the original retailer's price tag and a My-Tan Fashion price tag at a lower price. In some cases, the defendants sold these items at prices lower than even the wholesale cost paid by national retail chains: an over-the-counter antacid, for example, was priced at My-Tan Fashion for $13.99 – $15 less than the retail price at a chain pharmacy a few blocks away, and $10 less than the wholesale price the pharmacy paid.
Boston Police executed a search warrant at My-Tan Fashion yesterday, recovering at least 5,000 items with an estimated retail value of more than $100,000. They found no cash register, business records, or paperwork showing inventory or sales. In a recorded statement, Quach allegedly made statements admitting knowledge that the seized items had been stolen.
Prosecutors asked for $15,000 bail for Quach and $10,000 each for Feng and Tran. Boston Municipal Court Judge Michael Coyne set bail at $500 for Quach and $300 for Feng and Tran and ordered them to hand over their passports, the DA's office says.
In a statement, DA Dan Conley said:
This isn't a shoplifting case. This is the very reason the organized retail crime statute was signed into law. We allege that the defendants played a knowing role in the theft and unlawful resale of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of goods.
The three could face other charges; police say they seized dozens of possibly counterfeit designer bags and wallets that were sold as being real designer items.
This is not Quach's first run-in with the law. In 2011, she admitted to sufficient facts when charged with selling crack pipes at the store. The case was continued without a finding, the DA's office reports.
The DA's office adds that the people who allegedly stole stuff for her from other stores have been charged with larceny.