Breaking News in the Industry: May 11, 2017

retail theft ring shoplifting, security in shopping malls. catching shoplifters, prop 47

Serial shoplifter faces felony for $1.99 theft

A Platte County judge told Donlee Gillespie he better steer clear of a local grocery store if he wants to remain free on bond while awaiting a hearing stemming from his fourth arrest for shoplifting. Judge Frank Skorupa told the 31-year-old Columbus, Nebraska, man not to step foot inside Hy-Vee for any reason as a condition of a $10,000 personal recognizance bond during a brief hearing in county court. “You’re going to have to find somebody else to buy your groceries for you,” said Skorupa while reminding the local man that he had been permanently banned from the grocery store at 3010 23rd St. after his arrest for a shoplifting offense in November 2015. The judge also barred Gillespie from entering any liquor store or business that sells alcohol.

Gillespie is charged with theft by shoplifting $0-$500-third or subsequent offense and second-degree trespassing in the most recent case. The shoplifting offense is a Class IV felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and 12 months of post-release supervision. The trespassing charge is a Class II misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.Gillespie was also convicted of shoplifting in October 2015 and January 2016. A Columbus Police investigation began April 14 with a report just before 4 p.m. from a Hy-Vee cashier that a possible shoplifting had just occurred in the store’s liquor department.

A male suspect was observed entering the “beer cave” before quickly leaving the store without paying for anything while keeping his hands tucked inside the front of his hooded sweatshirt, Officer Jeff Anderson wrote in his arrest statement. Anderson said store surveillance video provided a clear photo of the suspect, who the officer recognized through previous contacts. It was later determined that the suspect took a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Downhome Punch valued at $1.99 from the beer cooler.  [For more: The Columbus Times]

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Abducted Verizon manager faces possible trial in unrelated theft case

A Verizon store manager targeted by abductors last fall in a series of armed cellphone store robberies in Pennsylvania is headed to possible trial on charges he stole $8,093 from the business.  Michael Joshua DeRose, 29, appeared Wednesday before District Judge Jacqueline Taschner. He gave up his right to a preliminary hearing. The judge then set a formal arraignment date for July 19 in Northampton County Court, where DeRose could face trial unless the case is disposed of in an alternate way. Northampton County Assistant District Attorney James Augustine said after DeRose’s appearance that prosecutors are seeking DeRose be required to pay back $8,093 in restitution. No plea arrangements are on the table, he said.

Five cellphone store robberies spanning across Lehigh, Northampton and Warren counties dating to October are being probed. To date, Gregory Lewis Jr., 26, and Vaughn-Darrius John Felix, 26, have been charged with robbing the Verizon store in Wind Gap this past February. No one has been charged in the Oct. 29 robbery of DeRose’s Verizon store in Forks Township. Another employee from Palmer, 25-year-old Michael Davis, was shot and killed the next month. A day after the homicide, authorities said DeRose was accosted, forced into his own car and driven off with armed abductors, but eventually managed to escape. Mulqueen has said DeRose remains a victim in that crime. “He is charged with theft of money, but he is a victim,” Mulqueen had said.  [For more: Lehigh Valley Live]

SC man accused of using “synthetic identities” rip off banks

A Rock Hill man is accused of using “synthetic identities” to steal $340,000 from Chase Bank and other financial institutions. A criminal bill of indictment against 50-year-old Charles Whitlock Jr. was returned by a federal grand jury on April 20. The indictment was unsealed Monday after Whitlock’s first appearance before US Magistrate Judge David Keesler in Charlotte. Whitlock was arrested Monday on bank, wire and mail fraud charges in connection with the scheme. He was jailed pending a detention hearing at 2 p.m. today.

According to the indictment, a synthetic identity is a fake identity created with a combination of real and fake information about people. Sometimes it is entirely fake information, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and telephone and cellphone numbers. The indictment accuses Whitlock of submitting more than 750 new credit card applications to financial institutions via the internet and by telephone, using synthetic identity information. The scheme lasted from December 2013 to last month. The names of the other financial institutions are not in the indictments. Bank fraud carries a maximum 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Wire fraud and mail fraud each carry a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, Whitlock sometimes used “pollinated synthetic identities” when he submitted new credit card applications containing synthetic identity information. Pollinated synthetic identity means a synthetic identity is added as an authorized user of an existing credit card account. That enables fraudsters to inherit the credit history of the existing credit card account holder and makes it easier to get multiple new credit card accounts and higher credit limits, the indictment said. To evade financial institutions’ new credit card fraud detection systems, Whitlock filled out the false applications using hundreds of addresses, including ones in the Charlotte area, court records show. The FBI and US Postal Inspection Service led the investigation.  [For more: The State]

Texas man gets two years for credit card skimmer fraud

An Austin, Texas, man was sentenced to two years in federal prison in connection with a $29,000 credit card fraud involving a skimmer on a gas pump in Londonderry.

 Elvis Barban Chavez, 45, was sentenced Wednesday in US District Court after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Chavez and others traveled from Austin to New Hampshire in late December 2015 and early January 2016.  The group used a device called a skimmer to obtained the credit card information of people using a gas pump at a Londonderry, New Hampshire, business. 

The group then used the card numbers at the self-checkout counters of a number of New Hampshire retailers to buy about $29,000 in gift cards.

On January 12, 2016, Hudson police were notified the group had been spotted at Sam’s Club purchasing gift cards.  The police responded and pursued the group from New Hampshire into Massachusetts, where they were apprehended by Tyngsborough police.  Numerous cards and a skimming device were found in the vehicle, according to police.

 Numerous other departments and staffs at various Sam’s Club stores assisted in the investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Donald A. Feith.  [For more: NH Union Leader]

Is facial recognition a viable solution for reducing shoplifting?

As identification accuracy improves and costs come down, more stores are installing facial recognition security cameras to reduce shoplifting, according to a report from Loss Prevention Media. But their use is largely being kept a secret from shoppers. Commonly, the way the process works, stores enroll known shoplifters into a database. Shoplifters who are caught often readily agree to have their face scanned to avoid being prosecuted. A national database is in the works, which will be used to alert loss prevention personnel within seconds of a known shoplifter entering a store. Authorized staff can then tell the shoplifter they’ve been banned from the location.

A report from NBC Los Angeles indicated that the technology has been proven to reduce shoplifting by 25 percent. For store staff, quick detection also reduces the time spent following potential shoplifters around the store as well as detaining and processing them if caught stealing. While the legal implications of facial recognition haven’t been fully vetted, stores tend to keep the system invisible to shoppers due to privacy concerns. “We shouldn’t be having the equivalent of our fingerprint being taken without our consent. It’s not right,” Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, told NBC Los Angeles last December.

Privacy concerns about facial recognition are perhaps more widely heard in reference to potential marketing applications. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international digital rights organization, told Loss Prevention Media, “A system that is designed to look only for people who have been convicted of shoplifting in the past is not going to be a threat to privacy for the vast majority of shoppers.”  [For more: Retail Wire]

Theft in distribution centers growing threat, security expert says

Theft in distribution is a growing threat in the US, security expert Barry Brandman of Danbee Investigations said during a very interesting presentation last week at the annual Warehouse Education and Research Council (WERC) conference in Ft. Worth. One recent change fueling the increase: the internet, which now provides a global marketplace where pilfered goods can be sold virtually anonymously, especially on auction sites, Brandman says, whereas in the past stolen merchandise mostly had to be sold locally. That also means once goods make it outside the DC, the chances of recovering it – or even tracking the source – are very low, Brandman said.

There are a number of different theft scenarios, Brandman said, including individual employees stealing goods on their own, the very common scenario of employees working inside a DC colluding with drivers to steal, and drivers stealing from customers during deliveries. Brandman cited a recent survey that found 40% of delivery drivers said they had been propositioned about joining in some kind of theft activity – a high number from which certainly some number said Yes.

Very high percentages of distribution companies have some countermeasures such as guards, alarms and video surveillance. But these tools are ineffective, Brandman said. Guards have a limited impact, and alarms are also limited and studies have found they don’t operate correctly a high percentage of the time.

But video may in the end be the most overrated tool, Brandman said, because such systems generate hundreds of hours of video every week – and who had the time or resources to view all that? No one, Brandman says, and employees know that. Relative to collusion, Brandman cited a recent example in which a second shift supervisor conspired with order pickers to select extra cases that were then loaded on a truck, with a driver also part of the scheme. Text messages were sent by the DC employees relative to what extra cases were on the vehicle.  [For more: Supply Chain Digest]


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