Thieves Steal Thousands in Perfume from St. Louis Ulta Beauty Stores

The pilfered perfume and other merchandise can be easily resold online

Sep 6, 2022 at 9:34 am
click to enlarge Surveillance still of the "Smell Good Bandit."
Surveillance still of the "Smell Good Bandit."

One particular beauty store is increasingly finding itself the target of thieves, both in St. Louis and nationwide.

According to St. Louis County Police Sergeant Tracy Panus, three St. Louis County Ulta Beauty stores were each hit by thieves three times in August alone.

The nine larcenies occurred at Ulta stores in Creve Coeur, Affton and Fenton. In every incident more than $750 of merchandise was stolen, making the thefts felonies. Many of the incidents involved groups of three to six individuals working in tandem to pilfer merchandise from the beauty store.

One woman posted to Facebook saying that she saw teenagers at the Fenton location "who filled up pillow cases like it was Halloween."

Ulta stores seem to be facing issues of theft nationwide.

In June, two women at an Ulta in Little Rock calmly stashed items in tote bags and walked out the door. A video of them later went viral on Tik Tok. Later that same month in Chicago, a “theft crew” was arrested for stealing from the same Ulta twice, making off with $200,000 worth of merchandise between the two thefts. Last week, a Bronx man was charged for stealing $35,000 worth of goods from a Westport, Connecticut, Ulta. Other high-dollar value thefts were reported over the summer in Tulsa, Knoxville and Kalamazoo.

After a $2,000 heist from an an Ulta outside of Philadelphia, a lieutenant with the Plymouth Township Police Department theorized to the ABC affiliate there that Ulta's are being targeted because the stolen fragrance, cologne and other beauty products can be easily resold at a decent price.

That is allegedly the motive behind a string of Ulta larcenies that happened in the St. Louis area last year, for which two men have pleaded guilty and another is awaiting trial.

click to enlarge Ulta Beauty stores are being targeted by thieves both  during business hours and overnight.
Ulta Beauty stores are being targeted by thieves both during business hours and overnight.

Last month in federal court, St. Louis County man Demetrius Owens, 20, was sentenced to a year in federal prison for his part in a theft ring that stole more than $140,000 worth of merchandise from six Ulta stores throughout Missouri, including in St. Louis. The thefts are alleged to have happened between November 2020 and January 2021.

Owens pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for his part in the scheme. Leo Finerson, 37, pleaded guilty to concealing a felony. A case is still pending against the third co-defendant, Ryan Jones, 38, on two charges of wire fraud.

According to federal prosecutors, Owens and Jones broke into Ulta stores at night, stealing anywhere from $9,000 to almost $35,000 worth of perfume, men's cologne, and other beauty supplies per larceny. St. Louis-area Ulta locations they allegedly hit included in Brentwood, Chesterfield, Creve Coeur and Fenton. Prosecutors say the men also committed similar thefts at other Missouri Ulta stores in Columbia and Washington.

Finerson was accused of taking videos of the stolen products and selling the items on Facebook marketplace.

Unlike the six figure theft ring, the current spate of Ulta thefts are playing out in plain view during business hours.

Last August, police released a still from the Fenton Ulta's security footage of a man dubbed the "Smell Good Bandit." The Croc-wearing individual filled a tote bag with $3200 worth of merchandise and walked out of the store. Police say no arrest was ever made.

Last month an Ulta shopper posted to Facebook about how she saw a man causally walk out of the Brentwood store with a basket full of cologne he hadn’t paid for. “Workers said hey,” she wrote. "And he continued walking out at a regular ass speed…had zero pep in his step smh.”

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