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Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Former Cook County Felony Prosecutor

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The $7 Million Shoplifting Spree and the Classifications of Shoplifters

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While most shoplifting in U.S. stores is carried out by college-educated individuals who simply act on impulse and steal low-value items, it can very well be turned into a lucrative business that can pay for a luxurious lifestyle.


This is exactly the case of a family from a Chicago posh suburb, who stole $7 million in merchandise from stores all over the country during a 10-year shoplifting spree. Their main targets included toys, dolls, cosmetics, jewelry, and other valuables. They had a preference for certain items, particularly American Girl dolls, Lego, baby monitors, Furby dolls, and steak knives they obtained from renowned brands: Barnes & Noble, Toys”R”Us, Dillard’s, and several others.


Branko Bogdanov, 58 and Lela Bogdanov, 52, together with their grown-up daughter of 34 years old Julia, were arrested last week at their Northbrook home, a residence valued at $1.3 million, immediately after they arrived home from a 3-day shoplifting trip through stores in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Thefts by the three were also reported in other states, including Tennessee, Maryland, and Florida.


Regarding their M.O., it is believed that, on most shoplifting trips, the stolen items were hidden in a long black skirt worn by Lela Bogdanov, which appears notably fuller when she’s leaving the store than when she entered. Apparently, the skirt had a lining capable of holding several items at once and, while Lela was stuffing items up her skirt, Branko and Julia were creating diversions in order to gain time and allow her to leave the store before the police signaled the theft. All items were then sold on eBay, through merchant accounts they’ve set up with the help of a fence.


The three have been charged with interstate transportation of stolen property, but have not yet entered pleas. They will remain in detention until next hearing.


Different Classifications of Shoplifter

Criminal LawyerAccording to a comprehensive review titled “Shoplifting: A Review of the Literature” by authors Therese Krasnovsky and Robert C. Lane from the Nova Southeastern University,shoplifting is one of the most prevalent crimes of our age, rapidly becoming a problem not just for the business sector and the legal system, but also for the general population – who often ends up paying extra to cover the losses of stolen goods. Here’s how scientists over the last century have classified the culprits:


1. Cameron’s Classification (1964)

Upon analyzing information from a large apprehension in a Chicago department store, Cameron differentiated between two types of shoplifters:


a) Boosters, or commercial shoplifters, made up about 10 percent of the sample, and were defined as those who steal to sell the items further. They know people (fences) who can help them pass on the stolen goods, and they usually have a history of criminal activities.


b) Snitches, or the pilferers, made up the remaining 90 percent of Cameron’s sample. Respectable American citizens, college-educated in most part, these shoplifters did not have any contacts with the criminal world and didn’t plan to sell the items for their value. Often, they engaged in criminal activities due to their neurotic, impulsive personalities.


2. Moore’s Classification (1984)


Criminal Defense LawyerBased on his colleague’s work, Moore defined his own typology of shoplifters using the following criteria: frequency, use of stolen goods, attitude towards the criminal act,primary factor, and reaction to consequences, especially of legal nature. He described the following types of shoplifters:


a) Impulseshoplifter – 15.4% – limited shoplifting activity, not planned, inexpensive items.


b) Occasional shoplifter – 15% – 3-10 times per year, engaged in criminal activity due to a desire for doing something challenging. They often minimized the consequences of their actions.


c) Episodic shoplifter – 1.7% – periodic episodes of shoplifting, stealing goods as a way to punish themselves. The criminal actions were mainly triggered by psychosocial factors.


d) Amateur shoplifter – 56.4% – largest category of shoplifters, who engaged in regular, almost weekly theft and had financial motivations. They stole small items that could be easily concealed, and when caught, claimed only minor involvement in the act.


e) Semi-professional shoplifter – 11.7% – the act of stealing had become part of their lifestyle. They were skilled at it and sold some of the stolen goods for profit. Through their actions, they were seeking “justified” revenge on society.


Regardless of the frequency, causes, and other factors useful in the classification of thieves, shoplifting is a serious crime, affecting countries from all over the globe. If you’ve been accused of stealing in a store, the best method to deal with such charges is to cooperate and make sure your rights have not been violated. Otherwise, it’s time to take out the heavy artillery – expert legal representation – and sue the store for false arrest or false imprisonment.


About the Author
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg,is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.

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