Over half a million dollars in stolen merchandise seized at Ridgewood store, two arrested: DA

The NYPD raided a Ridgewood boutique on Friday and seized more than $500,000 in brand-name merchandise while arresting two Queens residents for possession of stolen property.
Photos courtesy of the DA’s office

Over $500,000 in stolen goods from major retailers such as Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon were recovered after a raid at the McKlain Collection Boutique in Ridgewood.

The NYPD operation, announced by Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, led to the arrest of two Queens residents, Juan Nunez, 56, of Lindenwood, and Moranta Anibelka, 42, of Glendale. Both were arraigned on charges of criminal possession of stolen property, accused of operating a fencing scheme from their boutique at 813 Seneca Ave. The goods were being openly displayed and resold at less than half their retail value.

Photo courtesy of the DA’s office

“Organized retail crime is fueled by fencing operations that siphon money from legitimate retailers for their own financial gain,” Katz said.

In March and April, members of the Organized Theft Squad, under the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force and the DA’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau, conducted an investigation into the sale of stolen merchandise from brand-name retailers. Their investigation ultimately led them to the location operated by Nunez and Anibelka.

Photo courtesy of the DA’s office

According to the investigation and the charges, on May 3, based on intelligence gathered, law enforcement officials executed a court-authorized search warrant at the boutique that resulted in the seizure of clothing items stocked on the store’s shelves, walls, drawers and racks. They recovered more than 5,000 items including clothing, cosmetics and other merchandise belonging to Macy’s, valued at approximately $333,000. Also seized were 600 items, including men’s and women’s clothing from Lululemon, valued at approximately $71,000, and 2,123 items including undergarments and pajamas from Victoria’s Secret valued at $59,000.

Photo courtesy of the DA’s office

Law enforcement also hauled away 521 clothing items from Abercrombie and Fitch valued at around $25,000 and 460 clothing items from American Eagle, valued at approximately $17,000.

Retail investigators identified the stolen goods as originating from stores in New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, as well as other states. They were generally sold for cash at approximately 50% below their retail value. Many of the original price tags were still clearly visible at the time of the raid.

Tools used for the removal of security tags were also observed at the location, though there were no security tag sensors at the location.

“The merchandise recovered as part of this raid was allegedly stolen from retail stores across the country by sophisticated teams of thieves who divert profits into their own pockets,” Katz said. “Organized retail theft affects everyone through increased prices for consumers, lower sales and fewer jobs. Through meticulous investigations like these, and by utilizing our Queens Merchant Business Improvement Plan, I am committed to addressing the welfare of our local economy that keeps this borough thriving.”

Nunez and Anibelka both face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Queens Criminal Court Judge Julietta Lozano ordered the defendants to return to court on July 3.

“Organized retail theft imposes a considerable economic burden on entire communities, including local businesses and the hardworking New Yorkers who patronize them,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “I commend our NYPD investigators for recovering the stolen goods in this case, as well as for their tireless, ongoing efforts to identify and hold accountable anyone involved in such illicit operations.”