April 27, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

Black-market baby formula,


Union County Sheriffs Deputy Boyd Rasmussen is still investigating what he calls a unique case. But some of what makes it unique is clear.

Three hundred and eighty cans of powdered baby formula sitting in the sheriffs evidence room, for example.

The case began Thursday shortly after 5:30 p.m. when police received a call from Shopn Kart in Island City that the business had stopped a suspected shoplifter.

It wasnt long before the alleged shoplifters Chevrolet Astro minivan was located in the parking lot at Skippers Restaurant, along with several other people.

The case took a major turn when police opened the vehicle and were met by the sight of hundreds of cans of powdered baby formula, of different types and brands.

Since then, deputies have been trying to sort out exactly why the formula was being stolen, where it was all stolen from, and how the operation worked.

Rasmussen is busy on the telephone, but has suspicions about where the baby formula could have been headed.

They use it to cut into drugs or to resell to migrant workers, he said.

The issue is making a good profit on the stolen baby formula. The formula can sell for about $12 a can in grocery stores; resell value might be $5 or $6. The minivans stash of formula could well have brought the theives more than $4,000 resold.

Rasmussen believes the formula may have been bound for California, and that it was probably shoplifted a few cans at a time from several different businesses in Eastern Oregon. It is known, Rasmussen said, that more businesses than just Shop n Kart had had formula taken from them, but he is checking to see if other outlets in regional towns had reported problems.

Arrested in connection with the formula thefts have been Milton A. Borjas, 31, Carols A. Borjas-Tobias, 35, Carlos D. Castaneda-Lagos, 29, Elizabeth Quintanilla, 25, and Rosa Elena Abrego, 32. Police have not gotten confirmed home addresses for the five, but all are being held in Union County on charges of first-degree theft by receiving and first-degree conspiracy to commit theft.