Georgia law enforcement agencies recently arrested thieves responsible for a spree of shoplifting incidents targeting powdered baby formula, of which there has been a shortage over the past year.
According to the Cartersville Police Department, officers located the suspects’ vehicle after receiving a tip from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office to be on the lookout for a Tahoe with a Texas license plate that was connected to numerous shoplifting incidents at Publix stores.
Officers found the vehicle parked outside a Publix at 300 Cherokee Place and waited for the occupants to return.
Eventually, police caught two brothers leaving the store carrying packs of baby formula.
Dallas residents Regulo Sanchez-Romero, Mateo Sanchez-Romero and a 16-year-old girl were subsequently arrested.
Police said that upon searching the vehicle, officers recovered a cache of 662 cans of baby formula worth thousands of dollars.
“You could see bags full of different types of baby formula,” Cartersville Police Lieutenant Greg Sparacio said. “We estimate this to be just over $26,000 of baby formula.”
The thieves were charged with felony theft by shoplifting and receiving, and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Regulo Sanchez-Romero was also charged with driving without a license, while his brother was charged with providing police with a false name and date of birth.
Investigators across several jurisdictions are working to conclude if the brothers are responsible for other similar crimes across the region, noting that baby formula had been stolen from Publix, Walmart and Kroger stores in Tennessee and north Georgia.
“We believe right now that they have hit several locations: Publix, Kroger, Walmart and more in just over a course of a couple of days,” Sparacio said.
There has been a shortage of baby formula for over a year due to an FDA recall of the goods along with temporarily shutting down the largest domestic factory over concerns over bacterial contamination.
The impact on the supply chain is still being felt a year later.
“This particular brand, Nutramigen, it’s specifically for any type of allergy related to dairy the kid may have. The fact that is what’s being taken is really upsetting to people because this is the one that, as soon as it comes in on the shelves, it flies off,” Sparacio explained.
The cans range from an average of $20 to $40.
The thieves did not tell police what they intended to do with the goods, but it is presumed they aimed to resell them.
“I’d like to hope they were taking it just to go out and give to the needy, but I don’t think that’s the case,” Sparacio said.
The brothers have since been booked in Bartow County Jail.