State police say three Madison County convenience stores were illegally selling items taken from Kroger.
Three men from Lexington and one from Richmond were arrested Tuesday, after officers from a number of law enforcement agencies executed search warrants at the stores, according to a news release.
State police Trooper Robert Purdy said Kroger's loss prevention department had been conducting its own investigation and contacted state police about a month ago.
"We would actually ... have somebody go in and have them sell them the goods," he said. "They're looking for certain types of items."
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He said cigarettes were the main items being sought by the stores, although some food items were also being illegally sold.
Those arrested are store owners and managers, he said, and each was charged with engaging in organized crime.
Rangassami Rajaram, 35, of Richmond, was arrested from the Quick Pick Shell Food Mart on Northgate Drive. In addition to the organized crime charge, Purdy said he is also charged with fraud involving electronic food stamp cards.
Shashi C. Adhikari, 49, and Laxman Khadka, 28, both of Lexington, were arrested at the Easy Stop & Shop Shell on Lexington Road.
Binod Adhikari, 43, of Lexington, was arrested from the BP Gas Station on Lexington Road.
All four were being held in the Madison County Detention Center.
Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk issued a statement Tuesday night saying, "We appreciate law enforcement partnering with Kroger's security officials in this year-long organized retail crime investigation. Breaking up this crime ring helps Kroger keep our prices lower for our customers."
Similar cases have been investigated in other Kentucky counties recently.
In Pulaski County, 10 people connected to five convenience stores were charged last year with engaging in organized retail crime after undercover informants sold the stores items they said they had shoplifted.
And in May, state police and other agencies raided two Lexington markets to recover goods, primarily energy drinks, that had been stolen from Kroger. Three people were charged in that case.