Liquor thieves selling booze to restaurants, on the streets

SEATTLE -- Liquor thieves are continuing to hammer grocery stores across the state, and police say the stolen booze is being re-sold in some surprising place.

When liquor sales went private in Washington, thieves saw an easy target. Since then, police say stores like Safeway, QFC and Target have been hit especially hard.

Surveillance video from those stores and hard work from detectives led police to the Puerto Vallarta restaurant.

"Our investigation lead to a restaurant in West Seattle where one of the owners did appear to be buying liquor that was being stolen by this group of thieves," said Deputy B.J. Myers with the King County Sheriff's Office.

When customers found the restaurant locked in September, they were shocked to hear the accusations.

"We know the owners, they're great people," one customer said. "I couldn't imagine anything going wrong here."

It's become more of an issue across Western Washington as organized groups load up on liquor and head out. They find a buyer, who then passes the stolen booze off to consumers with cash.

"In the past we've seen things like meat or seafood being stolen out of groceries stores and resold, but nothing not with liquor," Myers said.

In some cases, investigators say the crooks take their business right to the streets.

"Sometimes they just sell to anyone that's willing to buy," Myers said. "Thieves will sometimes take products to a shopping center or a bar and stand outside and advertise to anyone walking by that they have liquor to sell for $5 or $10."

Myers said it's best to use common sense if they're approached by someone to buy liquor outside of a retail outlet.