Multi-state baby formula theft ring busted in Utah

Nov 10, 2022, 10:12 PM | Updated: 11:07 pm

RIVERDALE, Utah — Surveillance video is showing an alleged multi-state baby formula theft ring that came to an end in Utah. According to police, the scheme involved a group of women wiping store shelves clean during a time when it’s already hard to find formula.

For Utah parents, a grocery run for formula can often turn into a hunt with barely-stocked shelves at many stores.

At the Riverdale Target in late October, it became a heist with quite a haul when Riverdale Police said three women and a 15-year-old girl dumped basket-fulls of formula into a large plastic tote that they also found in the store.

Surveillance video shows the teen girl and a woman in one aisle, looking around as the woman picks up formula to put into a basket while in the next aisle over, another woman puts a basketful of formula she’s holding the into a 45-gallon tote. The group heads toward the front of the store and footage shows them making sure the coast is clear, then simply wheeling the cart out with the closed tote filled with 80 cans of precious powder meant for Utah families.

Only, store security was onto them and police caught up with the women outside. That’s because Riverdale Police said Target corporate alerted loss prevention at all stores around the western region of a suspected ring making the rounds at several stores in different states.

They also provided photos of the suspects, and Riverdale Police said the Riverdale Target employees recognized the women from the photos which prompted them to call police.

According to charging documents and estimates from Riverdale Police, the group is alleged to have hit up at least 13 Target stores in Arizona between September 8 and October 6, sometimes multiple times a day. The group is accused of leaving the stores with anywhere from a few hundred dollars worth to nearly a few thousand dollars worth of formula cans stuffed inside plastic tote bins.

The women may have also hit stores in Colorado and potentially other places, Riverdale Police told KSL Thursday.

Cristina Papalete, Loredana Parolea, and Cristina Dumitru were arrested and charged with Retail Theft, Contributing to the Delquincy of a Minor, and Pattern of Unlawful Activity. Police said the 15-year old was released to a family member when the women were taken into custody.

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Multi-state baby formula theft ring busted in Utah