Arrest leads to connection with over 5,000 more stolen items.

On February 6, the Fukuoka Prefectural Police announced that they have arrested and referred to public prosecutors a group of four Vietnamese nationals on shoplifting charges. The arrests stemmed from a pair of shoplifting incidents that took place at the Mark Is shopping center in Fukuoka City, during which the group stole items with a collective value of roughly 350,000 yen (US$2,410).

However, the group wasn’t targeting compact, high-price items like jewelry or smartphones. Instead, they hit the shopping center’s branch of Uniqlo, which, as you may already be aware, is Japan’s favorite affordably priced clothing retail chain. If you’re thinking that you’d have to pile up a lot of Uniqlo clothing before the total comes to 350,000 yen, you’re right, as the thieves nabbed 87 items during their two-day operation on September 26 and 29.

Obviously, that’s not a volume of apparel you can just stroll out of a store with. According to reports, two members of the group would enter the store and fill up a shopping basket with items, then, out of sight of the staff and security cameras, transfer them into their personal bags they’d entered the store with. They’d then walk out of the store and meet up with a waiting accomplice with a suitcase, transfer the stolen goods, then go back into the Uniqlo and repeat the process.

The group, which includes both men and women, has admitted to the charges, telling investigators “We came to Japan to shoplift.” As the investigation progressed, it came to light that the Uniqlo job was not the first heists the group had pulled, and they’re now tied to 66 shoplifting incidents taking place between 2018 and 2023 in eight different prefectures and involving 5,237 items worth a collective 19.7 million yen.

A portion of the stolen goods have been retrieved, and were laid out for display with the customary care and precision with which such police procedures are conducted in Japan, rivaling the sort of in-store displays the items were part of before becoming evidence.

Recovering all the stolen items, though, will likely not be possible, not only because of their sheer number, but because the theft ring is larger than the four people arrested. At the very least, there are two other members, one person responsible for hauling the stolen items back to Vietnam for resale, and a ringleader, based in Vietnam, who would issue instructions on what items to steal and how much the thieves could earn from them. Nevertheless, the police are continuing their investigation and attempting to identify the identities of the remaining members.

Source: TBS News Dig, RKB, Yomiuri Shimbun
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