Chandler couple accused of running interstate stolen baby formula ring
PHOENIX – An East Valley husband and wife were arrested last month for allegedly running a baby formula ring in which they obtained shoplifted Enfamil and Similac through an online marketplace, authorities said.
Rafid N. Khoshi, 46, and Manal M. Sulaiman, 43, of Chandler, were booked into Maricopa County Jail on May 23 on a variety of charges, including trafficking in stolen property, theft, participating in a criminal syndicate and illegal control of an enterprise, according to court documents.
The couple were accused of recruiting “boosters” on the OfferUp app to shoplift cans of formula, which they would buy for 30-50 cents on the dollar, according to a Chandler Police Department press release.
They allegedly then sold the goods at a profit to a distributer in El Cajon, California, and another fencing operation in west Phoenix, Detective Seth Tyler told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
“Since there was a cross-state transaction, the Department of Homeland Security stepped in, and they are investigating that portion of this case,” Tyler said.
He said the Chandler investigation began in September of 2018 after the arrest of two shoplifters in a local grocery store. He said one of the suspects said he’d been stealing large amounts of formula to sell it to individuals he met through OfferUp.
After detectives posted their own offer of formula, Sulaiman responded in minutes, Tyler said.
“She offered to purchase the baby formula and stated that she had the resources to purchase as much baby formula as possible,” he said.
“At this point we began to realize that we may have more than just a simple shoplift going on, that we might have perhaps some trafficking in stolen property.”
Between September and April, undercover officers completed more than a dozen transactions with Khoshi and Sulaiman, who remain in custody, Tyler said.
Police estimated that the couple shipped more than 25,000 cans of formula worth around $425,000 to California.
Fourteen boosters who sold stolen formula to the couple also were arrested as part of the case.
Most of them were homeless people with drug addictions, Tyler said.
“They were just feeding their drug habit,” he said.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report.