A Portland man is accused of running a “fencing” operation involving buying stolen Lego sets and other toys for a fraction of their retail cost and then selling them online for a profit, according to police.
The investigation began in early 2018. Raji Afife Azar, 40, was arrested Thursday.
Fred Meyer’s Organized Retail Theft Unit worked with the Northwest Organized Retail Crime Alliance to determine Azar solicited multiple people to steal from various businesses throughout the metro area.
Detectives said Azar would arrange the thefts through online sources like Craigslist and OfferUp, provide pennies on the dollar for the items and then sell the stolen merchandise on Craigslist, eBay and OfferUp for a “large” profit.
Police said as part of the fencing operation, Azar would arrange for people who were addicted to opioids and other drugs to steal the items and sell them to him.
During the investigation, undercover officers were contacted by Azar on multiple occasions, according to police. The undercover investigators posed as thieves who would sell stolen merchandise to Azar at a fraction of the manufacturer’s retail suggested price.
On Thursday, police said Azar requested that undercover officers, who he believed to be willing thieves, sell him around $13,000 in stolen merchandise.
The officers met Azar on the 10300 block of Southeast Washington Street with the supposed stolen merchandise. After Azar paid for the items, he was taken into custody, according to police.
A search warrant was served at his family’s home on the 2000 block of Southeast 102nd Avenue. Police said a large quantity of stolen Lego sets and other stolen items were found in the home.
Investigators with Fred Meyer’s Organized Retail Theft Unit estimate the value of the items stolen from Fred Meyer stores in the Portland area to be around $50,000. That does not include merchandise that was recovered from other stores.
Azar was booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of first-degree aggravated theft, laundering a monetary instrument and felony computer crime.
The Portland Police Bureau reminds anyone purchasing items from a non-retail location to be aware that items sold as "new" or in unopened packages with prices that seem too good to be true may be stolen.
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