NORTHBROOK, IL — A
Northbrook mother, father and daughter have been charged with a multi-state
“shopping odyssey” that involved a skirt that could hide stolen goods and
resulted in more than $7 million in stolen merchandise that they then sold on
eBay over the last decade, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Branko Bogdanov, 58, his wife Lela Bogdanov, 52, and their daughter Julia Bogdanov, 34, were all arrested Tuesday afternoon at their Weller Lane home. They were each charged with interstate transportation of stolen property.
According to prosecutors, the family was tracked down through their eBay sales.
Loss prevention executives at Barnes and Noble and Toys R Us recently told the Secret Service that they had had large quantities of items stolen, including American Girl dolls, Furby toys, Legos, baby monitors and baby carriers. The executives were able to learn that a particular eBay account was selling large quantities of these same items, the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release says.
With eBay’s help, the stores were able to learn that the owner of the eBay account lives in the Chicago suburbs and is now cooperating with law enforcement.
That person took in $3.4 million in sales by selling the merchandise, worth $6 million, over the past 10 years, the release says. The seller told law enforcement that he or she purchased the merchandise from a man known as Franko Kalath, which prosecutors say is an alias of Branko Bogdanov.
The Secret Service’s investigation also revealed a PayPal account that all three family members shared that was linked to their individual eBay accounts. The PayPal account showed $692,278 in sales, the press release says.
Lela Bogdonov, according to prosecutors, would wear a long black skirt into stores “that appeared larger and fuller when she exited various retail stores than when she entered. … At times, surveillance showed items protruding from the skirt when she exited stores, often accompanied by various diversions instigated by one or more of the family members.”
Law enforcement later discovered that it had a lining where multiple rectangular objects would be hidden.
The charges stem from surveillance of the family last month, prosecutors say.
On Feb. 19, surveillance officers followed the family from store to store near Houston, after which police stopped their car and found numerous items that matched stolen merchandise from nearby stores.
The following day, the family was followed in a similar way in Louisiana.
On Feb. 21, the Bogdanovs returned to Northbrook and the eBay seller who is cooperating with law enforcement received messages from the man calling himself Franko Kalath, saying he had new items for sale, prosecutors say.
Investigators learned of thefts from Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us and other stores in Maryland, Florida and Tennessee when telephone records or video surveillance show the family was at or nearby at the time of the thefts.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and restitution is mandatory.