A multi-million dollar shoplifting ring has been uncovered in Florida, and so far 18 people have been implicated in the theft of $100 million of health and beauty items. The arrest of two shoplifters at a Publix supermarket in June 2007 got the ball rolling. They stole $4,500 of Oil of Olay products that day and were charged with grand theft. They and their cohorts used special bags that helped conceal the stolen goods, and police say they were very good at what they did. The shoplifters were paid up to $3,000 cash for each delivery of stolen goods to the leaders.

The shoplifting ring has been operating for at least 5 years and there are victims in at least 11 counties. The police say everyone reported to two middlemen and two ringleaders who sold the stolen beauty products out of warehouses and flea markets. They also made sales through eBay and through a website they set up to sell the stolen goods.

How do you know that the goods you're buying on eBay and other websites aren't stolen? Quite simply, you don't. I'm sure none of the buyers from these people had any idea that they were selling stolen goods. That's the risk we take when we buy on the internet.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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