KANSAS CITY — It probably started with a few items to give to friends and family members, police say.
But investigators say they believe the embezzlement from the docks of a Kansas City Target store ballooned into a huge enterprise with more than $300,000 in inventory stashed in several locations in different cities — each site like a mini-store of its own.
Kansas City police Thursday raided five houses and one storage unit as part of their investigation into a woman in her 40s or 50s who worked at the Target at the Ward Parkway Shopping Center. Officers arrested her and four others who allegedly helped her haul away merchandise and peddle the stolen goods. No charges were filed Friday.
Police Sgt. Brad Lemon described investigators as “buried in paperwork” and hoping to get a case file to prosecutors next week.
One of the raided locations was the woman’s former home near 86th Street and Wornall Road in Kansas City. Another location was a farmhouse about an hour’s drive away, near Clinton, Mo.
Residents in nearby Blairstown said they heard of people buying items at the farmhouse. The woman selling the items allegedly told people they were damaged goods that she bought in bulk.
A woman in nearby Urich said the suspect regularly posted fliers at the local convenience store advertising electronics and clothing. The fliers directed people to a storage unit down the block.
The suspect tried to sell the Urich woman a $1,000 television for $200. But she declined, she said, because she already had a big-screen TV and she was suspicious.
The suspect’s sister lives in Urich and the suspect recently moved to that area, police said. The suspect lived in a trailer near the farmhouse near Clinton after her Kansas City house was condemned, police said.
Lemon said the thefts from Target probably started small and grew over time, with friends of friends and then an extended network of people buying products. The stolen items, many with Target price tags still affixed, were arranged in the farmhouse with similar items grouped in each room.
Whether the “customers” knew they were buying stolen goods is unknown, Lemon said.
“But if you’re buying stuff with Target tags out of a farmhouse, you have to think something’s wrong,” he said.
Police said they believed the thefts had been going on for a couple of years. Lemon said he didn’t believe police had recovered all the stolen merchandise.
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