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December 5, 2011 at 11:43 AM

SeaTac couple sentenced to prison for running theft ring

A SeaTac couple has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for operating an organized theft ring in South King County in which they paid others to steal items, which the couple later resold.

Sara Kong, 41, and Chanthou Rim, 39, were each sentenced Friday to 32 months in prison for six counts of first-degree attempted trafficking in stolen property and one count of first-degree conspiracy to commit organized retail theft. They had pleaded guilty to the charges in October.

The couple directed others to steal items from retail stores and resold some of the merchandise to local markets and sent 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, King County 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.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: attempted trafficking in stolen property, conspiracy to commit organized retail theft, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office

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