The King County Prosecutor’s Office today filed charges against four owners of the GMS Market, a convenience store at 10406 Greenwood Ave. N., alleging they organized a major retail theft ring.
According to documents from KCPO, prosecutors say the GMS Market owners paid thieves to shoplift goods from local retailers, then resold them at GMS Market and online. According to the prosecutor’s office, many of the shoplifters have been prosecuted, while others will be witnesses in the case.
Gulshan Rai, 56, and his wife, Shabnam Sukhija, 57, along with their son, Jatin Rai, 36, and daughter-in-law Mitu Rai, 35, are facing a variety of charges related to the alleged scheme. Gulshan, Shabnam and Jatin Rai are each charged with four counts of Attempted Trafficking in Stolen Property First Degree, and Mitu Rai is charged with one count of Attempted Trafficking in Stolen Property. All four are also charged with one count of Attempted Possession of Stolen Property First Degree and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Organized Retail Theft Second Degree. Items included razor blades, food items, medicines, and bath products stolen from Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Target. The loss to retailers is estimated at $1.25 million.
If convicted as charged, Gulshan faces a sentence of just under 10 months to almost 13 months. Jatin and Shabnam Rai each face a sentence of 16 ½ to almost 22 months in prison. The sentence range for Mitu Rai is 9 to 10 ½ months.
The defendants will be arraigned on June 2. The judge set bail at $10,000 for each of the defendants, and ordered them to surrender their passports. All four are U.S. citizens, but prosecutors say they have extensive ties to India.
We are still wading through all the documents, so we’ll update this post with more information shortly.
More information from the Certification of Determination of Probable Cause:
The Seattle Police Department began its investigation into GMS Market last November. Over the course of four months, undercover officers and confidential informants (CI) conducted 17 sales of “stolen goods,” which were actually donated to the police department by area retailers for use in the investigation. Detectives marked the donated goods with an ultraviolet pen.
On several occasions, the defendants told the undercover officers or CI’s which items they were looking to buy, and gave CI’s tips on shoplifting. Some of those incidents were tape recorded.
Some of the stolen items that GMS Market sold still bore stickers from the original retailers.
Detectives served a search warrant on GMS Market and the defendants’ residence (where all four live), and found a large number of health and beauty products in the home.
Prosecutors allege Jatin Rai earned $130,000 selling stolen goods through the GMS Market website online.
Prosecutors allege that Gulshan Rai admitted to buying stolen goods, but said it was necessary to make up for the losses the store itself incurred from shoplifting. Jatin Rai also allegedly admitted that he knew the items were shoplifted, but that his father had ordered him to buy them. Shabnam Sukhija alsoallegedly admitted knowing the items were shoplifted, but said her family had to do it to make up for shoplifters and robberies at their store, and that the economy had affected their business. Mitu Rai also allegedly admitted knowing the items were stolen.