VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Deputies in Central Florida said they have arrested six people after a long investigation into a large-scale retail theft ring in Central Florida.
Volusia County deputies called their 18-month investigation “Operation Bengal King.” Though it was based out of Volusia County, the crime ring stretched across five neighboring counties, including Flagler, St. Johns, Orange and Brevard, deputies said.
Deputies said the crime ring had eight members who were trafficking in stolen goods to support drug habits.
The ring was operated by a South Daytona couple, Anis Ahmed, 53, and his wife, Selina Ahmed, 46, through their liquor store, Bengal’s Discount Liquor, deputies said.
Anis Ahmed was arrested Wednesday and is facing charges of conspiracy to deal in stolen property, organized dealing in stolen property and two counts of dealing in stolen property. Selina Ahmed, 46, is charged with dealing in stolen property.
Deputies said four other co-conspirators in the ring have been arrested and charged with grand theft and dealing in stolen property. Two other members died of heroin overdoses in 2020 before they could be charged, officials said.
“This was an amazing job by our detectives into a brazen, large-scale operation by people who ruined lives and took advantage of their drug-addicted co-defendants,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “They should go away for a very long time.”
Deputies said the investigation, which began in November 2019, shows the Ahmeds were actively purchasing large amounts of property stolen from Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walgreens stores in multiple jurisdictions, and then trafficking the same property through their liquor store.
The couple and their employee, Joseph Bennett, initiated, organized, financed and directed the thefts, which occurred multiple times a week, sometimes even daily, deputies said.
Investigators said the group stole about $375,000 worth of merchandise a year, including high-end tools and electronics, and large amounts of cigarettes, from October 2019 to June 2020.
Deputies said the group was known to use stolen license plates on their getaway vehicles, and on several occasions, they fled at high speed from law enforcement authorities to escape arrest.
Investigators said, while most of the group loaded their shopping carts and brazenly walked past all points of sale then loaded the merchandise in their getaway vehicle, one member, Zachery Ridgdill became violent and dangerous during the thefts.
At least two dozen law enforcement officers have participated in this investigation. The case is also being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution based in Orlando.
A spokesperson for The Home Depot released the following statement:
“Organized retail crime (ORC) impacts many of our communities and is growing. The issue is significant enough that The Home Depot has teams that specialize in investigating ORC and work with law enforcement to identify operations that sell stolen merchandise. We’re grateful for the partnership with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to make these arrests.”
©2021 Cox Media Group