Jenny Kim said that even though a police search of her parents' grocery last week turned up no evidence of a major shoplifting operation, the incident damaged the store's reputation in the close-knit Remington community.
"The damage has already been done," said the 26-year-old worker at Sam & Angie's food store in the 2700 block of Huntingdon Ave. "We felt like we were treated like criminals."
"The following day, I received phone calls from people who said they had the impression [the store] was selling stolen goods," she said, adding that's not the case. Police confirmed that no stolen goods were found at Sam & Angie's.
Last Wednesday, police searched that store and five others in Baltimore for cigarettes, frozen meats, disposable diapers and other goods that were heisted in large quantities from supermarkets. Police arrested six people and charged them with a role in a shoplifting ring, whose operation stretched from Northern Virginia to Western Maryland, police say.
According to police, the thieves took thousands of goods each week and sold them to area stores at below wholesale prices. Some members of the ring used the money to buy drugs, police said.
Police arrested Young Man Kim, 48, of Baltimore County, the owner of Jin's Grocery in the 600 block of Cokesbury Ave., and another man, To Il Ma, 51, of Perry Hall. They were each charged with theft over $300 and conspiracy to commit theft, police said.
Two men and two women were arrested in a car at 31st Street and Hillen Road, and each was charged with theft and heroin possession. Police found several cartons of stolen cigarettes and four $25 bags of heroin in the car.
Police became aware of the ring in January, when Giant Food Inc. reported that someone was stealing its cigarettes and meats in large quantities. Later, a citizen notified police that drug addicts were part of the ring, said city police spokesman Dennis Hill.
With that information, police began to investigate. Undercover police purchased stolen goods from some of the stores.
At Sam & Angie's store, Jenny Kim said she had been at the cash register about 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday when a detective walked in, showed his badge and said he wanted to search for goods stolen from supermarkets, primarily Giant and Mars stores.
Three detectives searched the convenience store, paying close attention to cigarettes and disposable diapers, she said. By 8:10 "they called me and said they didn't find anything and that was it," she said.
But Kim said her parents feel they've lost patrons as a result of publicity the search has received.
Police today said they found stolen goods at four of the six establishments they raided. They got only seven cartons of cigarettes at Al's Tavern in the 2700 block Miles Ave., but seized 239 cartons from Jin's, plus individual cigarette packs, meats, batteries and over-the-counter cold medicines.
No stolen merchandise was found in A. Valenza's Deli in the 2600 block of Miles Ave., police said.
Kim said her parents have worked long hours, sometimes 13 or 14 a day, to run their six-day-a-week business. She thought it was unfair to seem to be linked to a shoplifting ring when no evidence was recovered.