Ben Dugan sat in an unmarked sedan in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood one day last September waiting for the CVS to be robbed.
He tracked a man entering the store and watched as the thief stuffed more than $1,000 of allergy medicine into a trash bag, walked out and did the same at two other nearby stores, before loading them into a waiting van, Mr. Dugan recalled.
The target was no ordinary shoplifter. He was part of a network of organized professionals, known as boosters, whom CVS had been monitoring for weeks. The company believed the group responsible for stealing almost $50 million in products over five years from dozens of stores in Northern California. The job for Mr. Dugan, CVS Health Corp.’s
top investigator, was to stop them.
Retailers are spending millions a year to battle organized crime rings that steal from their stores in bulk and then peddle the goods online, often on Amazon.com Inc.’s
retail platform, according to retail investigators, law-enforcement officers and court documents. It is a menace that has been supercharged by the pandemic and the rapid growth of online commerce that has accompanied it.
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