Breaking News in the Industry: November 13, 2017

Retail fraud tip leads to several arrests, drugs, stolen handguns

Six people were arrested in St. Clair County, Michigan, last week after a retail fraud tip led police to finding $4,500 worth of crystal meth, other drug paraphernalia and a stolen handgun inside of a Port Huron home. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office Road Patrol Unit received a tip of a white male in possession of a handgun committing retail fraud at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Fort Gratiot Township in the early afternoon of Nov. 6, officials from the sheriff’s office said. Police stopped the vehicle as it was leaving the parking lot and found the handgun with the serial numbers ground off and stolen merchandise inside. The information was relayed to members of the Drug Task Force, who were able to tie the stolen handgun to a known drug house in the 1000 block of Bancroft in the city of Port Huron.

The DTF obtained a search warrant for the residence and found five adults, the crystal meth, analogue pills, a large amount of U.S. currency, scales, cell phones, needles, packaging material, drug paraphernalia and another stolen handgun that was reported stolen out of St. Clair County inside. Police arrested three males, ages 26, 29 and 29, and two females, ages 24 and 25, all of Port Huron. The 24-year-old female and the 26-year-old male are expected to be charged with frequenting a drug house. The 29-year-old male was a parole absconder originally charged with home invasion. The 25-year-old female is expected to be charged with maintaining a drug house.  [Source: The Voice]

Florida man sprays employee with mace

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a case from last week when a man tried to leave the Vero Beach Florida, Best Buy with multiple vacuums, before spraying the loss prevention associate with mace pepper spray. The unidentified white male was seen walking towards the exit with two vacuum robots in his hands. As he approached the exit, the LP associate asked if he had a receipt for both items. The man turned and ran out the door with the merchandise. “I attempted to grab both items from his hands. We struggled over both vacuums; at which point, he pulled out MACE and sprayed me in the eyes. I then went blind and was unable to see him any further,” the loss prevention associate said. Another employee told the deputy that he also saw the suspect walking to the front door with two robot vacuums. He saw the suspect wrestling with the loss prevention associate before spraying mace. The man was last seen running to his car and leaving in a hurry.
The Vero Beach store manager said that the man stole 1 Neato Botvac Connected vacuum valued at $699.99 and 1 Roomba 690 vacuum valued at $328.99. The total value of both items is $1028.98. Coincidentally, one of the retail theft detectives for Indian River County recognized the suspect from another active shoplifting case. Deputies will be presenting a photo lineup to the two Best Buy employees for possible identification of the Vero Beach man. [Source: Sebastian Daily]

New law helps crack down on holiday season shoplifting

As stores rush to prepare for holiday shoppers, a new Tennessee state law is helping law enforcement further prosecute organized retail crime.
“Sometimes we know when it happens, other times we’ll be taking an inventory and we’ll find something missing or we’ll find an empty box,” Hobbytown co-owner Gary Phillips said. Phillips said the items shoplifters steal range from small trinkets to large remote controlled trucks. The new law, written by state Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, defines organized retail crime as two or more people working together to shoplift and return items for gift cards. It also stiffens penalties for convictions to include a minimum $300 fine and those convicted five times within a two-year period can be tried as felons.

“For some it will have no effect – a criminal is a criminal,” Zachary said. “But there will be those that it will cause them to pause because they know that if they commit organized retail crime in Tennessee, right here in Turkey Creek, there’s going to be stiff penalties and we have a way to charge them now in a way we didn’t before.” Zachary said the law not only benefits businesses, but keeps the state from losing sales tax revenue from stolen items. Additionally, store savings could be translated to consumers. “You have to allow for it as costs of operation, and that’s generally one or two percent of the item,” Phillips said. “Sometimes we actually have to look at a specific item and add 10 or 15 or 20 cents.” [Source: WBIR10 News]

Only 17 percent of Americans want retailers to open on Thanksgiving

The vast majority of Americans — 84% — are against or indifferent to retailers opening on Thanksgiving, according to a study from holiday deals site BestBlackFriday, which surveyed 523 adults. Nearly 60% don’t agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving, up from 55% last year. Of those opposed to the idea, 37% “strongly disagree,” compared to 21% who just “disagree.” Most consumers are putting their money where their feelings are: 64% say they won’t shop at all on Thanksgiving, up from 60% last year, while 13% will shop online only, 11% will shop in-store only and 11% will shop on both channels, BestBlackFriday found. Not all Americans are against the idea. Some 17% agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving, although that’s down from the 18% who felt that way last year. Of those just 6% “strongly favor” it, compared to 11% who just “favor” it. [Source: RetailDIVE]

Federal jury convicts Alabama man in tax-fraud scheme that sought $22 million

A federal jury in Montgomery, Alabama, has convicted the Phenix City man accused of stealing personal prison inmate information in a scheme to steal $22 million in fraudulent tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. The jury found William Anthony “Boo Boo” Gosha III guilty of one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud, 22 counts of mail fraud, and 25 counts of aggravated identity theft. Investigators said Gosha ran a “large-scale identity theft ring” with Tracy Mitchell, Keshia Lanier and Tamika Floyd, from November 2010 to December 2013 filing more than 8,800 tax returns seeking more than $22 million in refunds. The IRS paid them around $9 million. Gosha in 2010 stole the identifications of Alabama Department of Corrections inmates and gave the data to Lanier to use for filing fraudulent tax refunds. They agreed to split the loot. When Lanier needed more stolen IDs in 2012, she recruited Floyd, who worked at both the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Department of Human Resources in Opelika.

Floyd’s work gave her access to individuals’ personal identifying information, including teenagers’. Lanier asked Floyd for identities of 16- and 17-year-olds. Floyd agreed, providing thousands of names. Gosha then recruited Mitchell and her family to help file the fraudulent returns. Mitchell worked at Fort Benning, where she had access to the identifying information of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. She used it to file more fraudulent returns. To file the returns electronically, Gosha, Lanier and their cohorts got Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFIN) from the IRS, using the names of fake tax-preparation businesses. The conspirators used the numbers to file fraudulent returns, and to get tax-refund bank products such as blank-check stock. They at first printed out refund checks using the check stock. Gosha also had refunds converted to prepaid debit cards and sent to addresses he controlled. From January 2010 to December 2013, Gosha also sold IDs stolen from the Alabama Department of Corrections to Pamela Smith and to others. They used the IDs to file returns seeking $4.8 million in fraudulent refunds. The IRS paid them $1.85 million.  [Source: Ledger-Inquirer]

Connecticut man accused of theft at UPS job gets 4 years in deal

An Oakdale man entered a guilty plea Thursday to charges of larceny and was sentenced to four years in prison in a plea deal. Phillip Kenneth Taylor, 25, of 56 Chapel Hill Road, received a total sentence of 10 years in prison, suspended after four, and three years of probation. New London Superior Court Judge Hillary Strackbein said Taylor could have gotten five more years in prison if he had decided to go to trial and was found guilty. Strackbein told Taylor, who has a child, “you want to be a role model” and has the potential to make the right choices. According to a report from the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Taylor was arrested in August when he was working at the UPS center at 180 Fitchville Road, Bozrah. He was charged with third-degree larceny, sixth-degree larceny, two counts of risk of injury to a child, possession with intent to sell, use of drugs, and two counts of possession of cannabis.
The report says the preload supervisor at the UPS store noticed items were being stolen from packages in the area in which Taylor worked. Taylor worked in the “orange belt” area. On Aug. 4, the same day Taylor was arrested, the store supervisor decided to watch Taylor from a distance, and noticed he placed an item in his personal backpack, the investigation report says. The report says the store supervisor contacted police who searched Taylor’s home and found a number of “Coach brand” items he had stolen on previous occasions. Among the alleged stolen items were six clutches, four T-Rex bag charms, three chain straps, one black slim wallet, two black skinny wallets, one black shoulder bag, two Trose bag charms, and two small whistlers. Officers said they also found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in Taylor’s bedroom.
Taylor was also arrested in 2016 in possession of illegal drugs. [Source: The Bulletin225]

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