Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced two St. Clair County men pleaded guilty to organized retail crime charges over the alleged possession, purchase and sale of stolen retail merchandise. The pleas are the result of a multi-jurisdictional investigation facilitated by Raoul’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force.
The Attorney General’s office prosecuted Christopher Odem, 51, of Belleville, Illinois, who pleaded guilty Wednesday in St. Clair County Circuit Court to Class 2 felony Organized Retail Crime. St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Robert Haida sentenced Odem to 30 months of probation and 25 hours of community service. Odem was also ordered to pay fines and court costs.
Raoul’s office also prosecuted Garrett Bass, 23, of Cahokia Heights, Illinois, who pleaded guilty in October to Class 2 felony Organized Retail Crime. St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Zina Cruse sentenced him to 48 months of probation and 50 hours of community service. Bass forfeited approximately $39,000 and was also ordered to pay fines and court costs.
“Buying and reselling stolen items creates a market that encourages retail crime and makes communities less safe,” Raoul said. “These guilty pleas demonstrate the importance of the collaborative work that my office’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force is doing to hold individuals accountable.”
According to Raoul, Bass owned and operated a pawn shop that knowingly purchased new, in-the-box stolen merchandise for resale. Odem managed the store and engaged in these transactions.
Attorney General Raoul’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force is the first statewide, public-private collaboration of its kind in Illinois and is designed to foster cooperation among retailers, online marketplaces, law enforcement agencies and state’s attorneys dedicated to targeting organized retail crime enterprises. The task force allows the office to utilize data and tips provided by retailers, and to partner across jurisdictions with law enforcement agencies to investigate organized retail crimes and trace thefts to the source. Raoul’s goal in establishing the task force is to improve communication among public and private entities and utilize a multifaceted approach to combat organized retail theft and related criminal activity.
In addition to establishing the task force, Attorney General Raoul initiated legislation to create and specifically define organized retail crime in state law. The new law, signed in 2022, puts in place stronger oversight of online marketplaces to curb actors who exploit these legitimate platforms to illegally sell stolen goods. It also creates a statewide intelligence platform to help retailers and law enforcement agencies better coordinate their enforcement efforts. Additionally, the law requires online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume sellers, which will help police outlets used to monetize stolen merchandise. The law also aims to reduce a criminal’s ability to avoid prosecution for organized retail crime by allowing any state’s attorney where any element of organized retail crime takes place to prosecute the whole crime. The new law also provides the Attorney General’s office authority to utilize the statewide grand jury to prosecute organized retail crime. In addition, the Legislature appropriated $5 million to the Attorney General’s office during fiscal year 2023 to award grants to state’s attorneys’ offices and law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.
Assistant Attorneys General Heidi Epperson and Angel VonBokel prosecuted the cases for Raoul’s office.