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Saturday, November 3, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.

4 men nabbed buying stolen alcohol

By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle police sting targeting people who buy alcohol stolen from area retailers resulted in the arrests of four men this week.

Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said the four men bought alcohol from a shoplifter for about one-quarter to one-third of retail value.

About 457 bottles of stolen liquor were recovered from the home of one suspect, he said, and hundreds of bottles were found in the cars of two others.

The suspects were described as the owner of a flower shop at Pike Place Market, two parking valets and an 18-year-old who told police he sold his haul to minors.

The men have not been charged, and their names have not been released.

According to police, the two-month investigation was launched in September after a prolific alcohol thief was arrested.

That person, who said it was not atypical for him to steal $30,000 to $40,000 worth of liquor a month, was willing to cooperate with police as a confidential informant because he was facing felony theft charges and significant prison time, Pugel said.

After the state privatized liquor sales in June, novice retailers began reporting a huge loss from liquor thefts, Pugel said.

In addition to buying alcohol they believed stolen, the men arrested on Thursday also placed orders with the confidential informant and undercover police officers for "some of the most expensive (liquor) on the market," Pugel said.

Pugel said the suspects have no connections to each other and that, so far, police have not uncovered evidence that legitimate bars or restaurants were involved in the purchase of stolen liquor.

Many retailers are now learning to protect their wares by locking up the higher-priced liquors, moving the liquor shelves away from the exits or increasing security, he said.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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