CHICAGO - Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced criminal charges against a Cook County man over the alleged theft of more than $800,000 in retail goods. The charges are the result of an investigation by Raoul’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force that recovered thousands of stolen items at several storage units in Chicago in December 2021.
Raoul’s office charged Mahdi Alhaw, 31, of Justice, Illinois, with eight counts of non-probationable Class 1 felony theft, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and four counts of Class 1 probationable felony theft, each punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Alhaw’s bond was set at $25,000, and his next court date is scheduled for January 30.
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“Organized retail crime is a multibillion dollar per year industry, but more important than the financial cost is the danger organized retail crime poses to our communities. These crimes are committed by sophisticated criminal organizations that are involved in drug and gun trafficking and other serious crimes,” Raoul said. “These charges should serve as a warning that my office and our partners in the Organized Retail Crime Task Force will aggressively pursue these offenders and hold them accountable.”
Today’s charges result from a multi-agency investigation by Raoul’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force. During a search of Alhaw’s vehicle, the Chicago Police Department recovered items that led investigators with Raoul’s task force to several storage units where stolen merchandise was recovered. The storage units contained four semitrailers of merchandise, including clothing, electronics, cosmetics, mattresses, pet supplies and other items. BNSF Railway Police also contributed to the investigation.
“Organized retail theft is a concern for BNSF and all freight railroads as we work round the clock to deliver all the freight our customers need shipped and U.S. consumers rely on,” said BNSF Railway Chief of Police Bryan Laurie. “We welcome the Illinois General Assembly’s work to strengthen laws on the books and the cooperation of the Attorney General to bring charges against those responsible.”
In addition to the charges brought by the Attorney General’s office, Alhaw faces charges brought by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office related to alleged vehicle theft and gun crimes.
The Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force is the first statewide public-private collaboration of its kind in Illinois, and it investigates and prosecutes individuals who are engaged in this type of criminal enterprise. In addition to establishing the task force, Attorney General Raoul initiated legislation to create and specifically define organized retail crime in state law. The new law, signed in May, puts in place stronger oversight of online marketplaces to curb actors who exploit these legitimate platforms to illegally sell stolen goods. Additionally, the law requires online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume sellers, which will help police outlets used to monetize stolen merchandise. The law also creates a statewide intelligence platform to help retailers and law enforcement agencies better coordinate their enforcement efforts.
The law also aims to reduce a criminal’s ability to avoid prosecution for organized retail crime by allowing any state’s attorney where any element of organized retail crime takes place to prosecute the whole crime. Additionally, the new law gives the Attorney General’s office authority to utilize the statewide grand jury to prosecute organized retail crime. In addition, the Legislature appropriated $5 million to the Attorney General’s office to award grants to state’s attorneys’ offices and law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.
The public is reminded the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Supervisory Assistant Attorney General Megan McGuire Bachman from Raoul’s Criminal Trials and Prosecutions Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Haley Bookhout from Raoul’s Public Integrity Bureau are handling the case.