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RIVERDALE — Three Romanian national women were recently arrested in connection with what police say is a nationwide baby formula theft ring.
Cristina Dumitru, 19, Critina Papalete, 34, and Loredana Parolea, age unknown, were charged Oct. 21 in 2nd District Court with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony; retail theft, a third-degree felony; and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a class B misdemeanor. Police say federal charges are also being considered, but as of Thursday have not been filed.
Riverdale police were called to a Target store, 1135 W. Riverdale Road, on a possible theft on Oct. 20. A security employee "observed four females who he identified as suspects who have committed thefts of baby formula from Target locations across multiple states," according to charging documents.
"The Target employee observed these four females select a large plastic tote and fill it full of over $2,000 worth of baby formula," the charges state.
Three women and a 15-year-old girl, all from Romania, were stopped by police as they left the store. Detectives then confirmed the women are also suspects in thefts of baby formula at Walmarts in multiple states, according to the charges.
"During this investigation, we were advised that the four females involved in this case were part of a larger Romanian national's group who has been carrying out these high-dollar thefts in Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming and Utah," police reported in a search warrant affidavit.
"I spoke with a detective from Arizona who stated they have involvements with these individuals amounting to thefts of over $23,000," an officer added in a police booking affidavit.
Detectives reviewed store surveillance video and reported that the women had been dropped off at the Target by another person who has yet to be identified. However, police believe the three women were traveling with a larger group. After their arrests, officers were able to contact a man who said he was an uncle of the teen girl who also happened to be in the area. The girl was turned over to the custody of the uncle.
Riverdale police say the investigation into what the women were going to do with the baby formula was still ongoing Thursday.
The women are scheduled to be back in court on Tuesday.