Alleged Shoplifting Ring Foiled by Police

Edina police arrested two men and a woman thought to be part of a nationwide shoplifting ring that stole thousands of dollars in clothing from retailers around the Twin Cities, police said.

The three were arrested Saturday at the Travelodge in Bloomington, where authorities said they confiscated $16,800 worth of clothing. They found hundreds of pieces of clothing from the Gap, Banana Republic, American Eagle and Tommy Hilfiger, police said.

The three suspects, whose names police did not release Sunday, are expected to be arraigned today in Hennepin County District Court on charges of theft, possession of stolen property and possession of shoplifting gear, police said.

Eric Kleinberg, an officer with the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force who worked with Edina police on the case, said all three suspects confessed to shoplifting.

Authorities discovered the stolen items Saturday night in two moving boxes at the motel. Warrants were served on the room and a van the suspects rented after flying into Minneapolis on Thursday. The stolen goods were too numerous to lay out in the police station, so they were transferred to a basement community room at the Southdale Mall in Edina, Kleinberg said.

The suspects used foil-lined shopping bags to sneak the items past store sensors with their security tags still in place, Kleinberg said.

Police believe the suspects have been to Minnesota before, hitting most of the major retail outlets in the Twin Cities area during shoplifting sprees.

"They'd rent a van, steal, go back to the motel room, take off the article surveillance protection, pack these items very densely into moving boxes, and then send them back to New Jersey," Kleinberg said. "Where they go from there, who knows?"

Authorities arrested shoplifters last April and November that operated along similar lines. Investigators believe the crimes are linked.

"There's a distinct pattern," Kleinberg said.