Douglas County officials arrested seven people and recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold and silver in connection with what they said was one of the largest money-laundering schemes in Colorado history — a multimillion-dollar steal-and-resell operation that included thefts from giant retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, left, addresses members of the media during a press conference at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Substation on June 1, 2021, in Highlands Ranch. Also in the photo are Castle Rock Chief of Police Jack Cauley, center, and Lone Tree Chief of Police Kirk Wilson, right. The press conference was held to talk about the arrest of multiple suspects in the largest recorded money laundering operation in the history of the state of Colorado.
The seven individuals are suspected of spearheading a years-long scheme that involved $5.2 million in fenced stolen goods, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said at an afternoon news conference.
Working on a joint task force with the retail chains’ own investigators, local and federal officials recovered $100,000 in gold, $108,000 in cash, 80 pounds of silver and $1.7 million worth of stolen retail products, Spurlock said.
“This is huge for law enforcement and for the private sector to come after individuals who were stealing property, impacting the state of Colorado and, quite frankly, our nation,” Spurlock said. “Because every time something is stolen and was resold at a lower price, you, as a consumer, were paying the price for that, because you can’t expect Safeway or Albertson’s or Home Depot or Lowe’s or any of those to just eat the cost of items being stolen.”
The suspects — Dziyana Altshuler, Ilona Nastas, Grigore Tataru, Evgeny Shadrin, Ivan Biazliudau, Dzianis Artyushkevich and Dmitry Altshuler — allegedly stole everything from vitamins and cosmetics to birth control and home improvement tools, then resold the items online, the sheriff said. All are from Eastern European nations, Spurlock said, and most were in the country legally.
Some of the businesses impacted include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Whole Foods, Target, Safeway and King Soopers locations across an area from Pueblo north to Cheyenne, and from Frisco east to Burlington.
“Large sums of cash were identified moving between multiple accounts,” the sheriff said. “A lot of it leaving was leaving the state and a lot of it was leaving the United States.”
The seven individuals were indicted by a grand jury on 78 different charges, Spurlock said, including various counts of money laundering, theft and illegal mailing of contraband.
The sheriff said the seven suspects were the “key players,” but that there are other people involved, and that the ongoing investigation stretches outside Colorado.
“We know that there are other individuals that are involved and that there are other individuals currently right now that are doing the exact same thing,” he said.
The investigation began two years ago, the result of a task force put together by the chiefs of police in Lone Tree and Castle Rock, who approached the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. They began working with the U.S. Secret Service on the money laundering aspect, he said.
The task force later heard from major retail organizations that were working together after noting an uptick in stolen goods being peddled online, Spurlock said. The Douglas County law enforcement task force then began working directly with the retail chains’ investigators.
“This type of organized retail crime is occurring every single day throughout the state of Colorado and across our country,” Castle Rock police Chief Jack Cauley said at Tuesday’s news conference. “So for these talented investigators to come together and bring a case like this to fruition is pretty incredible and something that we are going to continue to do.”
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