A month-long sting by Chinese police nabbed an unlikely group of criminals: a band of pregnant thieves. Dubbed the “Big Belly Gang,” the decade-old maternal crime ring is allegedly responsible for the majority of the 3,000 cases of in-store thefts reported at shopping malls in the city of Hangzhou last year. Operating in groups of five, three non-pregnant women would distract staff while two pregnant women stole goods from the store, or money and valuables from other shoppers. While their stay-at-home husbands watched their children, the group met each day at the local school’s gates to divide their loot, splitting it 60-40 between the non-pregnant members of the gang and those stealing for two.
The gang exploited China’s leniency toward pregnant women and new mothers, who can plead a “special situation” and be released almost immediately (the gang’s boldest member was arrested and released 47 times). Relying on anonymous tips and help from informants, police moved in and captured all 47 members of the ring, 22 of whom were pregnant and also bulging with loot at the time of arrest. Police have recovered about 1.5 million yuan worth of goods stolen by the gang, but say it’s just a fraction of the group’s haul.