Knoxville shop owner claims false accusations in baby formula investigation; up to $70,000 in formula seized

(source: KCSO)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The owner of one of the stores in a stolen baby formula investigation says he’s being falsely accused. Kenneth Harris, the owner of Penny’s New and Used Baby Stuff spoke to WATE 6 On Your Side Friday afternoon. The 71-year-old spent 12 hours in jail Thursday night into Friday morning before bonding out.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office says the stores involved were buying huge amounts of baby formula from shoplifters, then selling it to customers. KSCO says they busted the ring after a six month investigation where they sent undercover officers posing as shoplifters to the stores. They say the stores bought formula from them, knowing the products were stolen.

Previous story: 3 Knox County consignment shops raided for selling stolen baby formula; 5 people charged

“They are all false. They’re saying they sent people in saying we have stolen formula asking us if we want to buy it. That’s absolutely false. I’ve talked to the other store owners they busted yesterday. They said the same thing. Nobody would buy stolen formula,” Harris said.

Kenneth Harris
Kenneth Harris

We asked him where the formula he sold was coming from.

“To my knowledge, this was extra formula people had that they didn’t use. And instead of throwing it away, they’d bring it to a resale shop,” he answered.

Harris believes his business was providing a service to the community.

Kenneth Harris owns Penny's New and Used Baby Stuff
Kenneth Harris owns Penny’s New and Used Baby Stuff

“There’s people who came in who said they didn’t have any money. I’d ask them what they needed and gave it to them. That’s just the way it was,” he explained.

In all, there was $60,000 to $70,000 worth of stolen formula seized by investigators. At least $57,000 worth came from Wee Care. Harris believes the owners of Wee Care, Fathi and Rebecca Husain, are also being falsely accused.

“These people at Wee Care, these are good Christian people that have done nothing but help the community,” Harris said.

The owners of Wee Care and Rugrats, the third store involved, could not be reached for comment. All of them were arrested and charged with attempted theft.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous. I would never do something like that,” Harris added.

His store is closed. He says he plans to reopen once he’s recovered from everything that’s happened. The other two stores involved in this investigation also remained closed on Friday.

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