It all started with a guy getting kicked out of a River North nightclub last weekend.
By Friday, Illinois’ top law enforcement officer called a press conference to announce a major bust.
Here’s the inside story about how a nightclub ejection, sharp-eyed beat cops, and a brand-new CPD investigative unit led investigators to a cache of stolen goods that was so big, it took over 100 man-hours to recover it all.
Shortly after 3 a.m. last Sunday, November 28, employees at a nightclub on the 300 block of West Chicago Avenue asked 30-year-old Mahdim Alhaw to leave because he was “unruly and belligerent,” prosecutors would later say.
After being kicked out, Alhaw threatened to shoot up the club and walked to his car, which was parked about 20 feet away, according to officials. He retrieved two loaded handguns from the vehicle and started walking back to the bar, prosecutors said, but nightclub employees tackled him and pinned him to the sidewalk until police arrived.
Responding officers arrested him and found a third gun in his car, but it wasn’t loaded, according to prosecutors, who charged Alhaw with multiple felonies last week.
The unloaded gun wasn’t the only thing of interest that patrol officers allegedly found in the vehicle, according to a source.
‘Hey, something is wrong here’
During Friday’s press conference, CPD’s chief of detectives, Brendan Deenihan, repeatedly praised “very astute beat officers” for getting the ball rolling on the investigation: “A beat officer who made an arrest and said ‘Hey there’s something wrong here. There’s something different.'”
What was “different?” Deenihan didn’t say. But a source said the beat cops found boxes of brand new clothing, storage unit contracts, and cargo manifests, in the car.
Within hours, information about the discoveries landed at CPD’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which had been formed just a week earlier.
The unit’s detectives began working the case with officers in suburban departments and at the state level. During Friday’s press conference, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said federal authorities are interested in the case, too.
Within days, investigators secured search warrants for eight self-storage lockers in the suburbs. They found the storage units packed floor to ceiling and front to back with stolen merchandise still in their shipping boxes. Raoul said 15 investigators worked for eight or nine hours to recover all of the merchandise, which was worth “over a million dollars.”
He said the stolen goods include “electronics. Sort of high-end food items … hair extensions, beauty supplies, and stuff like that. Leggings.”
While news reports on Friday linked the recovered goods to ongoing shoplifting mob raids on high-end boutiques, beauty supply stores, and other desirable targets, the seized items were most likely stolen as they were being shipped to stores for sale, according to our source.
As of Friday, no charges have been filed against anyone, including Alhaw, as the investigation continued across all levels of law enforcement, Raoul said.
But the case is a “very active and ongoing investigation,” Deenihan said, calling the investigation a “real team of team effort.”
CWBChicago will continue to follow the story.