An Illinois family of three was arrested for a 10-year shoplifting spree that totaled $7 million. This shoplifting family ring was 58 year-old Branko Bogdanov, 52 year-old Lela Bogdanov and their daughter 34 year-old Julia Bogdanov, each are being charged with a single count of interstate transportation of stolen property. They traveled to stores across the country targeting valuable items like toys, dolls and cosmetics. The family was arrested by U.S. Secret Service agents earlier this week at their upsale million-dollar Northbrook home after returning from a shoplifting spree in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana that spanned three days. On Wednesday in Chicago, they made their first appearances in U.S District Court but did not make any pleas and will be detained until a hearing next week. The matriarch, Lela Bogdanov dressed in orange jail attire wiped tears from eyes when the judge was explaining her rights through a Romani interpreter.
In a 20-page federal complaint, loss prevention executives from major retailers like Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us claimed they experienced a loss of merchandise that included dolls, robotic toys, Lego blocks and baby products. The family sold many of the stolen goods to a fence living in a Chicago suburb that sold $3.4 million worth of merchandise that had a retail value of $6 million through eBay. The fence who now is cooperating with authorities stated he bought the goods from a man named “Franko Kolath” over the last ten years. Law enforcement has learned that “Franko Kolath” was an alias for Branko Bogdanov. The Bogdanovs also have sold more than $690,000 worth of merchandise through their own single eBay account. With the 20-page federal complaint and the cooperation of the witness, authorities have recognized this is more than just a few incidences of petty theft, the Bogdanovs were a shoplifting family ring.
The Bogdanov case is an eminent study of criminal justice, not only for the substantial financial losses but for the old-fashion and simple techniques they used in their small but lucrative shoplifting ring. Lela Bogdanov would often dress in an oversized black dress outfitted with hidden compartments for packing merchandise. The dress which was confiscated after the arrest, has a blue lining suited for holding large rectangular objects and was used to carry hidden merchandise out of the stores. Surveillance footage showed items bulging from the dress when she departed from the store, usually followed by a distraction initiated by one or more of the family members.
Frank P. Benedetto, head of Chicago’s U.S. Secret Service office said that shoplifting on this level negatively affects retailers and consumers because the cost of stolen merchandise is passed down to the everyday consumers. Each member of the Bogdanov family was charged with transporting stolen property across state lines. An interstate transportation of stolen property conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a mandated $250,000 fine. There is little known about the family aside from their shoplifting empire. They are originally from former Yugoslavia and it is not certain whether they are U.S. citizens. The Bogdanovs will have their place in U.S. criminal history as the shoplifting family ring.
By Isriya Kendrick