Crew trafficked $2 million a month in stolen over-the-counter drugs, officials say

CHICAGO — Four men are facing felony charges for allegedly operating a clearinghouse for shoplifted merchandise out of a West Side convenience store. An undercover Chicago police officer sold garbage bags full of purportedly-stolen over-the-counter medications to the crime ring several times over the past year before investigators shut down the operation on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

The undercover officer went to M&J Tobacco and Food Mart, 3925 West Chicago Avenue, 14 times over the past year to sell garbage bags full of products that he claimed were “boosted” or stolen, prosecutor Andrew Dalkin said Thursday during bond hearings for the accused men.

Chicago police said the crew resold and shipped about $2 million worth of stolen merchandise out-of-state every month. Officials said CPD’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force conducted the investigation in conjunction with corporate loss prevention agents from CVS, Walmart, Jewel-Osco, and Mariano’s parent company, Kroger.

A police photo of some of the over-the-counter medications seized during the investigation and, clockwise from top left, Khaled Hussein, Abdel Jarwan, Matthew Smith, and Wael Kartoum. | Chicago Police Department

After the undercover made some initial sales to the group, a judge signed off on a series of “consensual overhears” so investigators could record activities, Dalkin said.

When investigators shut down the operation on Tuesday, they recovered 47,000 pieces of stolen over-the-counter products worth $1.3 million and over $150,000 in cash and gold, Dalkin alleged.

Matthew Smith, a 39-year-old, 12-time convicted felon, was involved in ten of the transactions, Dalkin said. Smith counted the officer’s goods, set a purchase price, and arranged for the store’s cashier to pay him.

Smith had several small bags of suspected heroin, crack cocaine, and cannabis when police arrested him Tuesday, Dalkin said. He is charged with operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise, manufacture-delivery of heroin, manufacture-delivery of cocaine, and manufacture-delivery of cannabis. Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him to pay a $500 bail deposit to be released on electronic monitoring.

Abdel Jarwan, 75, and Khaled Hussein, 57, are charged with operating a continuing financial crimes enterprise and multiple counts of theft. Wael Kartoum, 26, is charged with theft.

Ortiz said Jarwan must pay a $1,000 bail deposit and Hussein must make a $500 deposit to be released from jail. She allowed Khartoum to go home on his own recognizance.

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