23 charged in massive retail theft investigation

Alleged crime ring spans as far north as Orlando

MIAMI – A pair of early morning raids by police ended with more than a dozen people under arrest as part of a retail theft investigation.

Miami-Dade County state attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle lauded the arrests of 16 of the 23 suspects charged in this joint investigation.

"Ladies and gentleman, this is the arrest warrant in this case," Fernandez Rundle said at a news conference Thursday. "This represents 235 pages and somewhat 2.5 lbs of legal matter."

The organized crime ring is estimated to have stolen $15 million worth of merchandise. Investigators said 23 people were charged, but only 16 have been arrested so far.

Prosecutors said the organized crime enterprise stretched as far north as Orlando. 

Howard Seth Katz, 53, was one of the people arrested. Authorities said he ran the theft ring and sold the stolen merchandise to Abel Salk and David Cohen. 

Authorities said the group would target drug stores daily. They were paid roughly $1,000 a day for delivering the stolen items.

"This was their job," Fernandez Rundle said. "This is what they were ordered to do. This is how they made their living."

The thefts came at an expense to taxpayers.

"It doesn't allow us to control prices," Publix spokeswoman Nicole Krauss said. "It makes prices go up. You're losing money on the tax end for the state and you're losing money on the retail side."

Miami-Dade police, Doral police, the Broward Sheriff's Office, Orange County Sheriff's Office and Homeland Security were all part of the bust.