POSTED: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 4:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 4:04pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Maryland raided the Star Nails salon in Capitol Heights Thursday, busting what they say was a crime ring dealing in stolen Tide detergent and other items.
Five nail technicians were arrested and charged with theft.
Investigators say the suspects knowingly bought stolen products and then resold them to people running stores in Vietnam.
The raid interrupted a number of women in the midst of getting manicures.
A customer said the police came in and told everyone to get on the ground.
Investigators found piles of packaged razor blades, fragrances, and lots and lots of Tide in the back room.
Police say the suspects were diluting the Tide with water to increase their profits.
In addition to the nail salon, police raided homes in Lanham and Alexandria, and searched three vehicles where they uncovered more evidence.
The operation was conducted by a special unit of Prince George's County Police that focuses on organized retail crime.
Stolen Tide has been a hot commodity, but this appears to be the first time it's turned into an export business.
Since at least 2011, thieves have been loading up shopping carts with up to 20 bottles of Tide at a time and just rolling out of the store without paying.
One Safeway reported losing $15,000 per month in stolen Tide last year, and in August 2011, a man was arrested at a Bowie Safeway with a car full of Tide and $96,000 in the bank.
The latest plot unraveled when undercover officers listened in on phone conversations in Vietnamese.
"They would talk about selling to the 'store back home," said Julie Parker of Prince George's County Police.
Police say it's not over yet.
They expect more investigations, more searches and more arrests.