PORTSMUTH, Virginia — Federal documents show that three people were behind an operation to resell stolen goods online in Hampton Roads.
The Portsmouth store was known as the Bargain Empire and was located in shopping plazas around High Street and London Boulevard.
In October 2021, Rashid ElHassani, Adil ElHassani, and Laura Ortiz were indicted by a grand jury on charges including conspiracy, money laundering, and interstate transportation of stolen goods.
The operation reportedly took place over three years, from January 2018 to December 2020.
Shoplifters stole items such as power tools, printer ink cartridges, electronics and razors from stores in Hampton Roads, including Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s, according to court documents. Those shoplifters took the goods to bargain his empire location.
There, the defendant paid for them in cash, knowing they had been stolen, and put them up for sale online through his eBay and Amazon accounts.
According to court records, the eBay and Amazon accounts linked to the defendants made more than $5,000 in interstate sales of merchandise.
According to court documents, a search warrant was executed in December 2020 linking two warehouses, Bergen Empire and Hampton, to Ortiz.
Inside the store, police seized thousands of items, including printer ink cartridges and power tools. This included a generator and saws connected to Lowe’s on Victory Boulevard in Portsmouth.
Meanwhile, police seized items from the storage unit, including laptops, electronics, and razors. Other items included an upright vacuum cleaner linked to his depot at Home in Virginia Beach and a Chromebook linked to his Buy Best of Newport News.
The owner of a business called Bargain Empire said the store was always busy.
“When they first came in, I thought it was like a consignment store,” said the owner of Passions Exclusive Cutz and Stylez. [and] I brought you something in a box. ”
“I thought it was business as usual,” he added.
Rashid ElHassani and Laura Ortiz have pleaded guilty to collusion. Rashid’s sentencing is scheduled for the end of this month and Ortiz’s sentencing for her in March.
WTKR reached out to attorneys for both on Wednesday, but both declined to comment on the matter.
Adil ElHassani has not yet been arrested and may be out of the country, according to court records.