Police: Children used in North Las Vegas theft ring
Posted By Matt Guillermo, Web Producer - bio | email
Investigators said the owner of the Sunny Market operated retail theft ring, acquiring stolen cigarettes, alcohol and other items. (Peter Dawson/FOX5)
Police have arrested Nabiail Nage Dhalai. (LVMPD)
Police are searching for Mazen Hamou. (LVMPD)
NORTH LAS VEGAS, NV (FOX5) -
Authorities said a North Las Vegas business owner arrested during a sting Wednesday morning knowingly purchased stolen cigarettes from an undercover officer as part of a retail theft operation that, at times, involved children.
A joint effort involving Metro, North Las Vegas police and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms busted the alleged operation at the Sunny Market and Liquor located on W. Lake Mead Boulevard and Englestad Street.
According to officers, the store front was re-selling items that were stolen from other businesses. Items such as alcohol, cigarettes and baby formula were among those being sold.
Authorities said the people accused in the scheme recruited children to go into the businesses and steal the items.
"If you just see one shoplifter taking two to three bottles of booze from a store, you might think that's not a big deal," said Tim Bedwell with North Las Vegas Police. "When you multiply it across the valley and across the country, this is a significant problem."
Police said at least two people have been arrested in connection to the ring while one other person was still being sought. The person being sought is Mazen Hamou, aka "Mike." Hamou is described is 47, 5'8" and about 185 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. He is the owner of M-R Beauty Supply and 99 Cent Store, 1935 Fremont Street and the co-owner of Hooka Palace, 1030 East Flamingo Road. Police believe he may be in the area of these businesses.
One of the people arrested was identified as the store's owner, 54-year-old Amer "Sunny" Ramo.
According to the office of U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden, Ramo knowingly purchased 12,000 contraband cigarettes from an undercover Metro officer. In the purchase earlier this month, Ramo bought the cigarettes for $300 after being told by the undercover officer they were stolen and did not have any tax stamps, which was required by state law.
Police additionally arrested Nabiail Nage Dhalai, 35, on charges stemming from an associated investigation. He is charged with possession of stolen property.
The retail value of the cigarettes was about $3,300, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
The purchase with the undercover officer was made after police learned Ramo had allegedly purchased stolen alcohol.
Ramo is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Thursday on charges of receiving, possessing and purchasing contraband cigarettes. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Ramo's brother claims the owner is innocent.
"Some people steal, some people offer it to him," said Tim Binna, Ramo's brother. "I don't think he would buy it. They make good money here. He wouldn't lose this business to make a couple extra dollars. I don't think so."
"Nationwide, this is a problem that absorbs about $13 to $15 billion in loss annually," said Bedwell.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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