The Federal Bureau of Investigation alleges that a 54-year-old Auburn man master-minded a multi-million theft ring that operated in South King County from 2013 or 2014 to 2019, relying on shoplifters, drug addicts, drug users and even Amazon delivery drivers for its inventory.
The theft ring connected to Amazon scored $10 million over a six-year span, the FBI alleges in court documents
Although the government has not yet filed any charges in the case, according to an unsealed application for a search warrant that was served on the man’s home and three businesses early last month, the FBI is investigating the man and his associates for four potential crimes: transportation of stolen goods in interstate commerce; sale of stolen goods in interstate commerce; conspiracy; and money laundering.
According to the search warrant, which the FBI filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on July 10, two storefront businesses posing as legitimate pawn shops – Innovation Best in Kent, and Thrift Electro in Renton, the latter also known as Buy Trade and By-Trade — bought the items, which they then transported to a warehouse in Kent.
From there, the U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service and other mail carriers unwittingly transported the stolen goods to local warehouses or to Amazon warehouses outside the state of Washington for sale in interstate commerce on Amazon’s website.
According to the FBI write-up, Amazon disbursed funds back to bank accounts under the control of the Auburn man, and he and others then used these accounts to promote the criminal operation.
“These funds also appear to be used to conceal the nature of the unlawful activity by making the pawn shops appear like a legitimate business, when in fact the pawn shops are front enterprises for the conspiracy, and are permeated with fraud and … virtually no legitimate business beyond buying and reselling stolen property,” according to the write-up.
An Auburn Police detective launched the investigation last summer.
According to the FBI, the man entered the United States as a refugee from Ukraine in November 2000 with his wife and their children and became a naturalized citizen in September 2011.
According to the FBI, the Washington State Department of Revenue lists the man as the “governing” person for the pawn shops, and Amazon records name him as the account holder and operator of two business known to have sold the stolen products on Amazon.
Among the suspects, the write-up identified two Amazon delivery drivers. One of them, Abbas Zghair, has been in King County Jail since April on a $2.5 million bond, awaiting trial for second-degree murder with a firearm. His tentative trial date will begin at 9 a.m., Sept. 16 in Courtroom GA of the Regional Justice Center in Kent.
According to the King County Prosecutor, Zghair shot 31-year-old Silvano Ruiz Perez of Kent in late March and left him to die in a field at the site of the former Auburn Valley 6 Drive-In movie theaters.
This newspaper has elected to not release the names of any of the other members of the alleged conspiracy unless and until the federal government formally files charges against them.