Family Arrested for Shoplifting Millions in Decade-Long Road Trip Racket


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — For the Bogdanovs, a family road trip was a multi-state adventure that took them from their Chicago home base throughout the South and Midwest, up the eastern seaboard and down to the sunny shores of Florida. These cross country capers allegedly made them millions of dollars.

For ten years, the father, mother and daughter reportedly romped through shopping malls, toy stores, booksellers and coffee shops, stuffing merchandise into their clothes and then turning the goods over to an accomplice who peddled the shoplifted merchandise on eBay.

Charged with one count each of interstate transportation of stolen property are father Branko Bogdanov, 58, his wife Lela Bogdanov, 52, and their 34-year-old daughter, Julia Bogdanov.

Authorities say Lela Bogdanov would often wear a long black skirt, outfitted with large interior pockets that she would stuff with shoplifted merchandise.

The U.S. Secret Service was recently approached by investigators from Barnes and Noble and Toys "R" Us.

"The loss prevention executives told the USSS that they had sustained a huge loss in merchandise, including American Girl dolls, Furby robotic toys, Lego blocks, baby monitors and baby carriers," Shannon L. McDowell, special agent with the Secret Service, says in a criminal complaint. "According to the executives, their investigation determined that a particular eBay account sold large quantities of these specific items, and that the amount of items sold by the account often matched the quantities of the same item stolen from a particular Barnes & Noble or Toys 'R' Us store."

The owner of the eBay account, who purchased goods from the Bogdanov family over a period of ten years, selling $3.4 million in merchandise with a retail value of $6 million, ultimately cooperated in the investigation. Additional sales of the allegedly shoplifted goods totaling nearly $700,000 were sold from eBay accounts registered in the names of Bogdanov family members.

Last month, authorities trailed the family through several states, tracking their visits to stores in Houston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and ultimately through Mississippi. Surveillance video revealed merchandise bulging from Lela Bogdanov's long black skirt, which was seized when the family was arrested at their Northbrook, Ill. home on Tuesday.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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