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Chinese ‘ringleader’ of a Sydney infant formula syndicate, 48, accused of stealing 4,000 tins

Detectives believe they have smashed a sophisticated criminal syndicate after seizing more than 4,000 tins of baby formula allegedly stolen from Sydney stores.

The formula, allegedly stolen from Coles and Woolworths supermarkets as well as Chemist Warehouse outlets across the city, was seized along with more than $200,000 cash.

About $125,000 of that money was allegedly found inside a sleeping bag at a home in Sydney’s north-west.

Lie Ke (pictured left outside Burwood Local Court on Monday) is accused of being the ringleader of a syndicate that stole baby formula and sold it for inflated prices

Lie Ke (pictured left outside Burwood Local Court on Monday) is accused of being the ringleader of a syndicate that stole baby formula and sold it for inflated prices

The formula, allegedly stolen from Coles and Woolworths supermarkets as well as Chemist Warehouse outlets across the city, was seized along with more than $200,000 cash

The formula, allegedly stolen from Coles and Woolworths supermarkets as well as Chemist Warehouse outlets across the city, was seized along with more than $200,000 cash

Lie Ke appeared in Burwood Local Court on Monday accused of being the ringleader of the syndicate.

The 49-year-old is accused of organising a criminal gang to steal baby formula and other goods from retail shelves and sell them on at inflated prices.

Ke was arrested last month in an operation run by the State Crime Command’s Robbery and Serious Crime Squad.

In February, detectives received information from retailers relating to the coordinated theft of baby formula and vitamins across Sydney.

The formula was allegedly being sold out of a shop at Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west.

Strike Force Dungv was subsequently established to investigate the theft and distribution of the goods.

Ke (right) was charged with knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group and knowingly participating in a criminal group to assist crime

Ke (right) was charged with knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group and knowingly participating in a criminal group to assist crime

Searches allegedly located more than 4,000 tins of baby formula, large quantities of vitamins, manuka honey and various other items believed to have been stolen

Searches allegedly located more than 4,000 tins of baby formula, large quantities of vitamins, manuka honey and various other items believed to have been stolen

Following extensive inquiries Ke was arrested with a 53-year-old man in a train station carpark on Lloyd Avenue at Carlingford, in Sydney’s north-west, about 10pm on August 22.

Police allege Ke had 20 tins of baby formula in her car.

Ke and the man were taken to Ryde police station while search warrants were executed on two homes in the same street at Carlingford.

Those searches allegedly located more than 4,000 tins of baby formula, large quantities of vitamins, manuka honey and various other items believed to have been stolen.

Police also allegedly found more than $215,000 cash hidden in one of the houses which was seized as being the proceeds of crime.

Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said at the time: ‘The criminal network has on-sold this product and has made a fair profit out of it.’

Police also allegedly found more than $215,000 cash hidden in one of the houses which was seized as being the proceeds of crime

Police also allegedly found more than $215,000 cash hidden in one of the houses which was seized as being the proceeds of crime

Ke was charged with knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group and knowingly participating in a criminal group to assist crime.

She was also charged with three counts of participating in a criminal group to contribute to criminal activity and recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Ke was granted strict conditional bail while the man was released pending further inquiries.

She will plead not guilty to all charges.

Investigations by Strike Force Dungv are continuing and detectives expect to make more arrests.

Ke’s matter was adjourned to Parramatta Local Court on October 2.

Other police units and the New South Wales Crime Commission have been involved in the investigation.

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