Law enforcement officials said their months-long investigation involving a group of heroin addicts, Chicago and suburban pharmacies and SNAP resulted in the arrests of four suspects.
The four were charged with wire fraud in an investigation conducted by Wilmette police, and law enforcement officers from Chicago, Schaumburg, the Department of Homeland Security and even the federal Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
According to the Chicago Tribune, the three men and one woman arrested were allegedly directing heroin addicts to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars of goods from area pharmacies. Those items were then fenced online and at local stores, police said.
The suspects range in age from 33 to 59, investigators said. The youngest of the group – who is the owner of three neighborhood West Side stores – is believed by police to be the organizer of the scheme. According to officials, the man recruited heroin addicts to steal certain items (an over-the-counter heartburn medication, baldness treatment and diabetes test strips) from CVS and Walgreen’s stores for resale at his stores or online.
Addicts believed to be part of the scheme were apparently directed to drug treatment programs rather than being charged with crimes, officials said.
Investigators said they recovered about $100,000 in merchandise they believe was stolen from pharmacies in Chicago, on the North Shore and in western suburbs.
The alleged SNAP fraud involved people making purchases on Link cards (to be used to purchase food items only) and then getting cash back on the transaction.
A law enforcement official said, “The store would ring up a fraudulent charge purporting to be a grocery purchase, for $100. The person would get $50 and the store would retain $50.”
Those facing similar allegations should speak to an attorney experienced in white collar defense before talking to police or prosecutors.