Three Florida suspects face racketeering, other charges in retail theft ring
Polk County sheriff’s deputies have made two arrests and are looking for a third suspect who they say took part in organized retail theft ring spanning a four-month period, hitting JC Penney and Beall’s stores in Lakeland and Davenport Florida. The Sheriff’s Organized Retail Crime Unit identified three suspects it says were responsible for nine thefts. The Sheriff’s Office said the suspects could be seen on security video removing shopping bags from behind the cash register and later placing items such as clothing and perfume into them, then leaving the store without paying.
Gerald “Jalise” Cobbs, 39, Lakeland, was arrested Dec. 22 and charged with racketeering, a first-degree felony; four counts of retail theft coordinating with others and three counts of felony petty theft. The Sheriff’s Office said he was the ringleader of the group and has been convicted of 16 prior thefts. His criminal history includes: shoplifting, probation violation, failure to appear, resisting without violence, trespassing, theft of state funds, forgery, passing counterfeit, drug possession, dealing in stolen property, fleeing to elude and driving while license suspended (habitual). Varesha Teron Perry, 30, Lakeland, also was arrested Dec. 22 and charged with racketeering, three counts of retail theft coordinating with others, petty theft and two counts petty theft first-offense, battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting with violence. She has previous arrests on charges of battery and failure to appear. Sunsaray Shaquille Willis, 24, Lakeland, is still at-large but is charged with racketeering, retail theft coordinating with others, retail theft coordinating with others over $3,000 and petty theft. She has previous arrests on charges of petty theft, cocaine possession and trespassing. The first incident occurred at the Beall’s Outlet store in South Lakeland on July 20. That was followed by eight other incidents at JC Penney stores in Davenport and Lakeland, with the last one occurring Nov. 30. In security video from the Sept. 20 incident at JC Penney of Davenport, sheriff’s investigators said Cobbs and Perry can be seen entering the store, then going to an unattended cashier’s counter and taking store bags. The pair is then viewed on the video as they leave the store with full bags. [Source: The Ledger]
Woman tries to steal candy bar from c-store, scene escalates [Viral Video]
A 39-year-old Centralia, Washington, woman is facing a felony robbery charge and an assault charge after police say she shoved two market owners in a dispute over a candy bar. David Haladay, who owns B&D market, says he saw that woman pocket a Kit Kat bar in the store Tuesday before walking up to the cashier to buy cigarettes. After using the ATM, she tried to leave the store. That’s when Haladay confronted her, and told her police had been called because she was shoplifting. Haladay says he typically doesn’t press charges but he tries to confront shoplifting when he sees it. But the confrontation that followed turned ugly. Surveillance video seems to show the woman shove Haladay to the ground after words are exchanged, and then run for the door, where Haladay’s partner Matthew Dare was standing. The woman runs into Dare, and after the two momentarily tussle she tumbles to the floor. Then she gets back up and pushes her way out of the store. “It’s just crazy,” Haladay said. “It’s sad and it doesn’t make sense.” Dare took the license plate of the car she got into, and police soon tracked down and arrested that 39-year-old woman. According to court documents, the suspect told a different story, but police say the surveillance corroborated Haladay and Dare’s perspective. The candy bar cost $1.19. The woman dropped it on her way out of the store. The 39-year-old suspect faces one count of second-degree robbery and one count of fourth-degree assault. Bail was set at $10,000. The suspect was still in jail as of Saturday afternoon. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 11. [Source: KOMO News]
Employee accused of stealing more than $10K from store
A Bed Bath & Beyond employee is accused of using returns from online registries to steal more than $10,000 from a West Palm Beach, Florida, store. Officers arrested Mandela Matasu, 29, Friday after finding that Matasu fraudulently took money from the store 15 times, court records show. Surveillance video found many instances of Matasu “pulling out his own debit card, reaching over the counter from the employee side to the customer side, and swiping a card at the customer’s credit card terminal machine,” an officer wrote in an arrest report. Records state Matasu transferred in June 2017 to be a manager at the Palm Beach Lakes store. Loss prevention associates were notified about a high number of return percentages from their online registry orders at the West Palm Beach store in December 2017.
At first, the LP associates found returns for a bridal shower went to a debit card belonging to Matasu. Their investigation uncovered a total of $10,545.79 refunded to Matasu since September in 15 transactions. Matsau allegedly confessed to a loss prevention associate when confronted about the allegations. When a West Palm Beach police officer spoke with Matsau, he reportedly confessed again. Matasu was released on Jan. 6 from the Palm Beach County Jail on supervised release. He’s facing several grand theft and fraud charges. [Source: WPTV5 News]
US retailers signal they had a happy Christmas
Embattled US retailers had their most cheerful holiday season in at least six years, according to new data and early trading updates. Boosted by bubbling consumer confidence and a healthy jobs market, US shoppers spent 4.9 per cent more during the holidays than they did a year ago, the biggest annual rise since 2011, preliminary data from MasterCard SpendingPulse shows. After a turbulent year of store closures and retail bankruptcies, “this is a much better holiday than we have grown accustomed to,” said Simeon Siegel, analyst with Nomura Instinet. “It feels like more than just better-than-feared.” Industry groups have nudged up their forecasts. The National Retail Federation, the industry trade body, said it expected final results to exceed its earlier forecast of $682bn in sales, which would be a 4 per cent rise from a year ago. Customer Growth Partners, a consultancy, predicted sales for November and December rose 5.7 per cent, year on year, up from an earlier estimate of 4.3 per cent.
US unemployment has dropped to a 17-year low and consumer confidence has surged on the back of a stock rally. A bitterly cold winter also helped boost demand for winter garb, said Mr Siegel, all resulting in the bigger spending. As holiday sales results trickle in, the optimism appears to span even the department stores, which have been hard hit by consumers’ drift away from malls. JC Penney, the first major US-listed retailer to publicly tally its Christmas trading, said like-for-like sales rose 3.4 per cent in the nine weeks to end of December, thanks to strong demand for homewares, beauty products and jewelry. Chief executive Marvin Ellison called the results “very encouraging”. “This is likely the season where we all move past talking about retail in trouble,” said Greg Portell, partner at AT Kearney. “Retail as a sector is healthy and vibrant. The traditional definition of retail needs to adapt to how consumers shop today . . . the stores are no longer the node of commerce. [Source: Financial Times]
Five months after Equifax hack, Social Security still relies on discredited firm
Nearly five months after an unprecedented security breach at the credit rating firm Equifax exposed Social Security numbers and other data, making some 147 million Americans vulnerable to potential identity theft and fraud attacks, the Social Security Administration continues to use an identity security system devised by Equifax for the MySocialSecurity online portal. Equifax was awarded a no-bid $10 million contract back in early 2016, as the company boasted at the time, “to help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.”
Equifax was awarded a no-bid $10 million contract back in early 2016, as the company boasted at the time, “to help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.” Equifax was awarded a no-bid $10 million contract back in early 2016, as the company boasted at the time, “to help the SSA manage risk and mitigate fraud for the mySocialSecurity system, a personalized portal for customers to access some of SSA’s services such as the online statement.” During this suspension, the IRS will continue its review of Equifax systems and security. The IRS emphasized that there is still no indication of any compromise of the limited IRS data shared under the contract. The contract suspension is being taken as a precautionary step as the IRS continues its review. [Source: Salon]
Dad makes sons caught shoplifting clean store’s parking lot
For dad Justin Hon, making his teenage boys pick up trash around the Medford, Oregon, Toys R Us parking lot is a lenient punishment compared to what could have happened under the law. Instead of a family trip into the toy store to pick out a new toy, Justin hon had his teenage boys, Nicholas and Noah, picking up trash in the parking lot. He said sometime around Christmas, he caught his sons stealing from Toys R Us. “Their excuse was that they were stealing for their baby brother which I don’t care what their reason was behind it. Their actions deserve consequences and they just need to be accountable for what they did,” said Justin Hon. Hon made the boys return what they stole.
“The lady here at Toys R Us was really sweet. She just talked to them. She was really nice about it. She could have called the cops on them.” Hon added. He said their actions warranted a punishment greater than just getting grounded. “I felt that this could have turned into something bigger if I didn’t nip it in the bud really quick. I know as a kid I stole things and I got in trouble by the law. I had to do community service and all that stuff. I guess this is what it’s about. Learning a hard life lesson without the judicial system,” Hon added. He made his sons, 16 year old Nicholas and 15 year old Noah, buy their own high visibility vests and trash bags with their Christmas money to learn from their mistakes. “I told my kids I’m not mad at them. I was disappointed but I wasn’t mad at them. I made the same mistakes. It’s learning from those mistakes and taking responsibility for your part,” Hon said. Hon hopes this lesson sticks with his children and they never have sticky fingers again. [Source: KDRV12 Newswatch]