(Clarifies to say juveniles, specifically, must enter court-ordered programs for shoplifting, and that retailers are pushing for stricter laws regarding Internet sales.)BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Police in Fort Worth, Texas, spent five weeks investigating a case of stolen merchandise from Target ( TGT - Get Report) found in a warehouse. Investigators from the police department and the retailer busted a local flea market for storing and selling $3 million in goods that had been stolen. Items included razors, detergent, pseudoephedrine and shampoo. Some of the products, such as baby formula and over-the-counter medications, had been sitting in the warehouse so long that they had become expired, Target spokeswoman Bethany Zucco said. But that wasn't stopping the thieves from selling them. "One of our biggest concerns was that people were being sold expired goods," Zucco said. "People were buying goods that were outdated and that had been stored in unsafe conditions." More companies are seeing their stolen merchandise for sale in online marketplaces. The sluggish economy and the development of online marketplaces and auction sites have given rise to a new wave of retail theft. Companies are losing billions of dollars in merchandise each year, and it's only getting worse. Theft is nothing new in the retail the industry, though the advancement of technology is making it easier for thieves to move their goods, says Rhett Asher, vice president of loss prevention at the National Retail Federation. "Online auctions give new anonymity that we haven't seen before," Asher says. "It's hard because every time security gets better, thieves find a new way around it." Juveniles caught shoplifting are often ordered by the court system to complete a program run by the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention. NASP communications director Barbara Staib says the number of juveniles in the program has been steadily increasing since 2008, when the full brunt of the economic recession bore down. When shoplifters are admitted to the program, they're asked a series of questions. The NASP has started querying if shoplifters ever sold stolen merchandise online. "Juveniles are becoming more and more comfortable on the Internet, where they think social graces don't exist," Staib says. "Juveniles feel like they can say and do anything online as if the Internet is separate from reality."
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