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The Great South Florida Faja Heist: Thieves Made Off With $2M Worth Of Shapewear


And now to what will surely come to be known in the Netflix mini-series as "The Great South Florida Faja Heist." A faja is a shape-sculpting undergarment, somewhere between a girdle and Spanx, popular in Latin America. Last year in a robbery that has only now been publicized, a team of thieves bored through a concrete roof of a warehouse in South Florida and made off with some 34,000 of them. The haul was worth - wait for it - some $2 million. And less than a quarter of them have been recovered. David Ovalle has been reporting on the crime for the Miami Herald, and he joins us now on the line. Hi.

DAVID OVALLE: Hi. How are you?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm good. More importantly, how are the girdles? Let's get behind this heist. Could you explain, first of all, what the faja is?

OVALLE: Well, generally, it's used to sort of wrap your belly and kind of give yourself that waist, that tiny waist and kind of accentuate the curves of your hips. There's also ones to kind of raise your butt. And so there's all kinds of different styles. And it's - you know, it's sort of that Latin look. And it's sort of become more and more popular. I think even now Kim Kardashian is coming out with waist shapers and stuff like that, but it's basically a faja.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, TMI - I - of course, growing up in Miami - wore them growing up. And so there you go. I am very familiar with this, which is why I was interested in this story. Take us to the crime scene. Premier International was the target of the heist. Why them?

OVALLE: Well, Premier is one of the bigger sellers of fajas in Miami. And they'd actually been hit a couple times before. But this one was way bigger than the ones before. And so what they did was they cut the alarms. You know, this is kind of like an "Ocean's Eleven" style thing. They drilled through the roof, which is concrete roof. They went in and kind of, you know, hopscotched down some shelves and then opened up the base and, you know, brought in a truck and spent the entire night emptying out all the fajas.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I guess people listening to this would be asking one simple question - why (laughter)? Why would they be stealing fajas? And why are they worth so much money? Two million dollars' worth - that's a lot.

OVALLE: Well, so they cost about - let's say about $20 to produce. And then the consumer will end up buying it for 120. So they can be very, very lucrative. So these thieves - you know, they ended up selling them to, I guess, to other people. And then those people try selling them back to various faja stores and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But they ended up in the black market.

OVALLE: Yeah, they ended up in the black market. So if - you know, if you're a place that sells fajas and you can get this good product for only like, you know, 20 bucks a pop as opposed to 50 bucks a pop, well, that's - you know, and then you can sell it for over a hundred while you're making pretty good return.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why are we finding out about this crime only now?

OVALLE: Well, it just happened to be that I was in court, and one of the people that ended up getting arrested was finally taking a plea deal. One of - and she was someone that was arrested months later. And a prosecutor from Hialeah, Fla., mentioned it to me. And I'm like, whoa. There was an undercover sting at the Fajas Y Mas on 49th Street. And so I was kind of cracking up. I'm like, that's so Miami. So I pull...


OVALLE: So I pull the arrest reports. And turns out - yeah, so Miami. So I'm like, wait a minute. So it turns out it was this whole big thing that had happened the previous year. And they were - sort of been intermittently arresting people. And so I'm like, wow, this is fascinating. I thought it was just a great way into this niche industry that's very, very successful. And it's still unsolved. The actual people who went in and broke in and actually did the stealing of the fajas have never been caught or identified.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So still something left to be uncovered. I am sure that you are going to stay on the faja beat, though, for us.

OVALLE: I am going to stay on the faja beat, and I now know that there are fajas for men. So if I ever need to slim myself down for appearances' sake or for the gram, I guess I know where to go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Miami Herald Reporter David Ovalle. Thank you so much.

OVALLE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE WEDNESDAY'S "STEP BY STEP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.