Breaking News in the Industry: April 17, 2017

Walmart manager charged with staging $400,000 store robbery in which he was shot

A former Walmart assistant manager was indicted on federal charges that he took part in the staged robbery of $400,000 from his Laurel, Maryland, store in 2012, and a plot that included having him shot in the arm. The indictment unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore alleges that Ansar Ali Younis was part of a group that planned the early-morning robbery on. As part of the plan, co-conspirator Mohammed Altashy obtained a Plymouth Voyager and at around 4:15 a.m. drove to the store and looked for Younis, who was acting as the night manager, and loudly announced a robbery, the indictment alleges. He pointed a gun at Younis, demanding he put cash from the Walmart safe into a trash can, then forced Younis at gunpoint out of the store. Altashy shot Younis in the right arm, then left the scene. Immediately after the robbery, Altashy and another unidentified member of the conspiracy transferred the stolen money to another vehicle, and the first vehicle was set on fire, according to the indictment.

Altashy and an unidentified accomplice drove to a home in Baltimore, and divided up the money, setting aside a share for Younis, who received the money at Prince George’s County Hospital, prosecutors said. In court papers, federal prosecutors said Altashy was in custody but Younis was believed to no longer be in the United States.A woman who answered the phone at the Walmart when a reporter asked for a manager said the store would have no comment.Younis and Altashy are both charged with robbery conspiracy and aiding and abetting under the Hobbs Act, as well as aiding and abetting of wire fraud, malicious destruction of a vehicle, and use of a firearm during a crime of violence.  In April 2014, a year and a half later, the FBI offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the robbery. According to a news release from the FBI at that time, Younis had given a description of the person who robbed and shot him. [For more: The Baltimore Sun]

Verizon store manager who escaped abductors now charged with theft

A Verizon store manager in Pennsylvania who was  targeted by abductors last fall amid armed robberies of cellphone stores is now accused of stealing $8,000 from his business. Michael Derose, 29, was charged Thursday with two counts of theft and one count of receiving stolen property, according to a court docket. He was sent to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail. Derose’s charges are not directly related to a Lehigh Valley law enforcement task force’s ongoing investigation of cellphone store robberies around the region, said Northampton County Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mulqueen, the head of the task force.

Armed bandits hit Derose’s store in Forks Townshipin October. Another employee from Palmer, 25-year-old Michael Davis, was shot and killed the next month. A day after the homicide, authorities say Derose was accosted, forced into his own car and driven off with his armed abductors, but eventually managed to escape. “He is a victim,” Mulqueen said Friday. “He is charged with theft of money, but he is a victim.” Local police discovered Derose’s alleged thefts before the task force formed, Mulqueen said. The investigation into the series of store robberies, and the homicide, continues. “Every day,” Mulqueen said, “we’re learning more and continuing to get closer to the truth.” In addition to the killing and abduction, authorities are investigating five cellphone store robberies, four in the Lehigh Valley and one in New Jersey, just outside Phillipsburg.  [For more: Pocono Record]

Illinois woman sent to prison for forgery, fraud

Called a “danger to the community” in her sentencing hearing, a Clinton woman is headed to prison for forgery and credit card fraud. Madorie Sullivan, 50, was sentenced to up to five years in prison and up to two years in prison, sentences that will run concurrently, after pleading guilty to forgery, a Class D felony, and credit card fraud, an aggravated misdemeanor.

Clinton County District Court Judge Mark Cleve noted that Sullivan has a history of similar crimes and that prison diversion opportunities such as probation had failed in the past. Assistant Clinton County Attorney Amanda Myers represented the state of Iowa. The state recommended incarceration for five years. “At this point, the state feels punishment is appropriate and she is a risk to the community,” Myers said. Sullivan and her attorney, David Zimmerman, were asking for a suspended sentence with supervised probation because he said it would allow her to better treat substance-abuse issues. He said she has no violent history and isn’t a community danger and had already served nearly 140 days in the Clinton County Jail.

According to a criminal complaint, the forgery charge came from fraudulent transactions and cash withdrawals from a male victim in Camanche between July 28, 2016 and Aug. 1, 2016 of $1,933.12. Sullivan allegedly took a debit card that had been sent to his address and changed his pin number. The credit card fraud happened on July 29 at the Clinton Home Depot for a transaction amount of $78.29, which included a $50 cash withdrawal. In a police interview, Sullivan admitted to using the card at Home Depot in an effort to support her methamphetamine habit. At the sentencing hearing, Sullivan said she was ashamed of the crime.”I’d like to apologize, I’m embarrassed and ashamed and don’t want to be a part of the problem… If you give me probation you will never see my face in court again,” she said.  [For more: Clinton Record]

Company pleads guilty in counterfeit Patriots T-shirts case

A New Hampshire company has pleaded guilty to trafficking counterfeit New England Patriots playoff championship and Super Bowl T-shirts during the 2015 National Football League playoffs. CK Productions Inc., in Pelham, New Hampshire, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston on Thursday to trafficking in counterfeit goods. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6. Prosecutors say the business printed and sold over 1,700 counterfeit T-shirts, with a retail value of over $29,000. The playoff T-shirts bore the trademarked words “Patriots” and “Super Bowl” and the Patriots logo.  [For more: Yahoo! Finance]

LP Worldwide: Cops nab 31 shoplifters in retailer sting

An alarming number of shoplifters have been arrested during a mid-week undercover sting in Wagga’s CBD, Australia. Police conducted a three-day operation targeting retail thieves and yielded 31 arrests. The alleged crooks were caught by plain-clothed officers and through the use of CCTV.  The items stolen ranged from food and drinks to gadgets, jewelry, clothing and work equipment. Inspector Peter Robertson said it was likely the most concerning result a Wagga police shoplifting operation has seen. “These are very unfortunate figures,” he said.  “It has proven that theft from retail stores remains a significant issue in this city.

“Our offenders were spread across all demographics, from the young and old to the rich and poor.”  The crackdown came in response to a spate of shoplifting reports from the city’s shopkeepers and retailers. Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data revealed Wagga averages roughly one report of shoplifting per day. Baby shop Cotmakers owner Kaylene Blackburn said “gangs of eight to ten” often distract her staff, opening a window for perpetrators to claim five-fingered discounts. “Shoplifting is a huge problem for us. Most days we have to review CCTV footage because we suspect someone has stolen something,” Mrs Blackburn said.“We have installed six cameras and have signs at eye-level warning criminals they will be prosecuted, but it doesn’t deter them.“We have to speak in codes when we suspect a thief.”  [For more: The Daily Advertiser]

Serial shoplifting suspect sought by police in custody [Video]

A serial shoplifter was taken into police custody Wednesday, two days after surveillance video of her was released from Ross Township police. Authorities told Channel 11 News that Dawn Babuscio, of Spring Garden, is one of the most unusual shoplifters they’ve ever dealt with. “She doesn’t make much of an attempt to conceal what she’s doing,” Ross Township Sgt. Benjamin Dripps said. Police showed surveillance video from the Ulta in The Block Northway.  They said during one week in February, Babuscio walked into the store four times, went directly to the pricey perfumes, loaded up her purse and walked out without paying. She pocketed thousands of dollars in merchandise over a few visits, police said. “The odd thing about it is that she’s well-known by employees in this store. I’m not sure why she goes back there. As you can see, she does it almost on a daily basis,” Dripps said.  [For more: WPIX11 News]

Best Buy could be a big winner in the great retail shake-up

The list of consumer electronics retailers is getting shorter. Regional chain hhgregg is liquidating its assets after filing for bankruptcy in March, and RadioShack, which went bankrupt more than two years ago and restructured its business, has filed for bankruptcy for a second time. Best Buy, the largest seller of consumer electronics in the U.S., stands to benefit from the shuttering of these smaller chains. An analyst at Deutsche Bank estimates that Best Buy could add $335 million of revenue if it can capture 20% of hhgregg’s sales, a windfall that would boost its comparable sales by nearly a percentage point.

This trend of weaker retailers biting the dust is unlikely to end anytime soon, and Best Buy is well positioned to pick up sales from its fallen peers. The company has been gaining consumer electronics market share during its turnaround over the past few years despite weak industry sales, thanks in part to its big e-commerce push. As more retailers fall, Best Buy could be one of the biggest winners.  While hhgregg is small relative to Best Buy, the seemingly inevitable failure of Sears Holdings could provide a significant sales boost. Sears sold $9.6 billion worth of hard-lines in 2016, which includes appliances, consumer electronics, and various other categories. Appliances alone accounted for 15% of Sears’ total revenue, which comes out to about $3.3 billion. Appliances accounted for about 7% of Best Buy’s sales during the fourth quarter, far less than both consumer electronics and computing and mobile devices. But it’s one of Best Buy’s strongest categories, with comparable sales jumping by 6.4%. Best Buy is the No. 4 seller of appliances in the country, behind Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Sears. Even picking up a small portion of Sears’ appliance sales will provide a meaningful boost to Best Buy and propel it into a strong third-place position.

It may still be a few years before Sears ultimately fails, with the company adept at financial maneuvers that extend its life. But at this point, with the company hemorrhaging cash and suffering from crippling sales declines, it’s hard to see a scenario that doesn’t end with bankruptcy. Best Buy, along with the other major appliance retailers, will be ready to pounce.  [For more: The Motley Fool]

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