Issaquah police bust up ring of brazen liquor thieves

ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Police say they've busted a ring of liquor thieves who've stolen thousands of dollars of high-end booze in the last several weeks alone.

The Issaquah store owners who've been hit say the thieves are well prepared.

Surveillance footage from a local Safeway shows a woman placing several bottles of liquor in her grocery bag. She makes two separate trips to the liquor aisle, but fails to stop at the register before leaving the store.

"They were actively involved in stealing a large quantity of alcohol every time they came here, so we knew they were moving quite a bit of stolen goods frequently," said Stan Conrad of the Issaquah Police Department.

Police arrested 40-year Theresa Duckworth and her 19-year-old son, Ernest Owens, Sunday night. Investigators believe they're just two members of a larger ring of booze thieves that's been targeting local stores for months.

The thieves are very active, and police believe the group hit the same Issaquah Safeway nearly 10 times in the past two weeks.

But it's not just large stores falling victim to the crime ring. The Front Street Market's Lori Surridge said several clerks at her store noticed the thieves Sunday night and called police.

"There was a lady and she was loading alcohol in her black bag," she said.

Police aren't sure where the thieves are selling the stolen booze, but Surridge has her own ideas.

"They're selling it to restaurants and convenience stores at five cents on the dollar," she said.

Police are staying vigilant and trying to make it clear that Issaquah will no longer be an easy target.

"They always get caught if they keep doing it," Conrad said. "They think they won't, but they will get caught."

Duckworth and Owens are both facing felony counts of organized retail theft.

While local police work to put an an to the theft, state legislators are also looking at the problem. Lawmakers have suggested legislation that would require retailers to track and report thefts to the Liquor Control Board so police could look for patterns and issues with specific retailers.