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October 31, 2011 at 10:42 AM

SeaTac couple plead guilty to running theft ring

A SeaTac couple has pleaded guilty to several charges stemming from an organized theft ring in South King County in which they paid others to steal items, which the defendants later resold.

Sara Kong, 41, and Chanthou Rim, 39, each pleaded guilty last week to six counts of first-degree attempted trafficking in stolen property and one count of first-degree conspiracy to commit organized retail theft. The couple is accused of directing others to steal items from retail stores and reselling some of the items to local markets and sending other goods to Cambodia, which prompted a parallel investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to the charges, Rim and Kong used “thieves to enter retail grocery and other stores to steal merchandise.” Among the thieves was a mother-daughter duo that shoplifted nearly $1,000 worth of items each day, prosecutors said. The mother and daughter told police they did it because they needed money to support their heroin addictions, according to the charges.

Earlier this year, undercover officers sold items alleged to have been stolen to Rim and Kong, including brand-name dish soap, aspirin, lotion and diapers, charges said. About $5 million worth of items is believed to have been stolen from South End retail stores, prosecutors said.

ICE investigated Rim and Kong for shipping stolen items out of country. In May, agents searched a shipping container at the Port of Seattle that was bound for Cambodia. Authorities found large quantities of personal, health-care and cleaning products that were not listed on the manifest for the container.

Kong and Rim each face a sentence range of about 24 to 32 months in prison when they are sentenced on Dec. 2 before Judge Bruce Hilyer at the King County Courthouse.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: conspiracy, SeaTac, South King County

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