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Breaking News in the Industry: February 3, 2017

Feds uncover $20m in fake sports merchandise

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with local police agencies have confiscated counterfeit sports merchandise valued at an estimated $20M.  The agencies reported the merchandise included over 2,600 items that such as  fake jerseys, hats, cell-phone accessories,  and thousands of other bogus items.

“Operation Team Player” involved ICE, HSI and other groups including US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and local police, began at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Super Bowl and targeted flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors selling counterfeit goods, reaching a peak this week ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. To date it has resulted in 56 arrests with 50 convictions.

“Criminal elements use major sporting events like the Super Bowl as an opportunity to sell substandard and counterfeit goods to the American public,” commenting acting ICE director Thomas Homan, who took the role after President Trump fired his predecessor Daniel Ragsdale earlier this week.  “ICE special agents are committed to collaborating with industry and law-enforcement agencies to crackdown on counterfeiting that significantly impacts local economies and funnels money into organizations involved in additional illicit activities.”   [For more: Securing Industry]

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Miami-Dade residents account for bulk of defendants in major ID fraud bust

The US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo Ferrer, announced that of the 100 defendants arrested in their recent identity theft case, most were from Miami-Dade residents. Over 100 defendants charged in the stolen identity theft bust, about 60 percent, or 64, were from Miami-Dade County. About 28 percent, or 30, were from Broward County. The rest were from Florida counties outside of the tri-county region, or from other states or countries. None of the defendants hailed from Palm Beach County in this round of charges.

The 81 cases encompassed more than 30,000 stolen identities and the “intended theft of over $60 million dollars from individuals, businesses and government agencies through fraudulent schemes,” according to the US Attorney’s Office.  One type of alleged scheme among the 81 cases is tax refund fraud, a common issue in the Sunshine State. Florida is the “oldest” state in the US, with 17.9 percent of the population 65 years or older, according to Retirement Industry Trust Association. The elderly frequently fall prey to fraudsters. Taxpayer identify theft has netted more than $5.8 billion in fraudulently gotten funds, according to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Pembroke Pines.  [For more: Business Journal]

Valentine’s Day spending expected to dip

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is saying that they expect us to spend $18.2 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, down from a record $19.7 billion in 2016.  Shoppers are expected to spend an average of $136.57 on Valentine’s Day items, down from last year’s record-high of $146.84. Valentine’s Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year,” said Matthew Shay, the federation’s President and CEO. “This is one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care regardless of their budget. Consumers will find that retailers recognize that their customers are looking for the best deals and will offer good bargains just as they did during the holiday season.”

Although Valentine’s Day spending has steadily climbed over the past decade, the federation said its annual Valentine’s Day spending survey found the number of people who plan to celebrate the holiday has dropped by nearly 10 percentage points over the same period  This year’s survey found consumers plan to spend an average $85.21 on their significant other or spouse; $26.59 on other family members such as children or parents; $6.56 on children’s classmates and teachers; $6.51 on friends; $4.27 on co-workers; and $4.44 on pets.  Experienced-based gifts such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, a gym membership or an outdoor adventure, are popular this year, the federation said. Roughly 40 percent of shoppers want an experience gift, but only about 24 percent plan to give one, the survey found. [For more: Palm Beach Post]

Serial robber boasted he’d never get caught… a month before arrest

A repeat robber at a Dollar General who once boasted he’d “keep stealing because I’m going to keep getting away with it” was busted outside the store Sunday, prosecutors said.  Corey Vance, 41, is accused of stealing coffee, Pepsi and laundry detergent from the store at a Chicago suburb Dollar General.  Vance was stealing two boxes of Starbucks coffee when he pushed a 46-year-old employee to the ground and said, “I’m going to keep stealing because I’m going to keep getting away with it. And if you call the police, I’ll beat your a–,” prosecutors said.

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Using surveillance footage and employee complaints, Chicago police officers were able to arrest Vance outside the Dollar General according to an arrest report. Vance is charged with robbery, retail theft and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. on Tuesday said Vance could be released on his own recognizance if the Cook County Sheriff’s Office agrees to provide electronic monitoring. If not, Vance will be responsible for $100,000 bail.   [For more: DNA Info]

LP Worldwide: More than half of retail fraud in the UK is “cyber-enabled”

Fifty-three percent of retail fraud is now ‘cyber-enabled’, while abuse and violence against retail employees has risen by 40% since last year, according to the British Retail Consortium yearly Retail Crime Survey.  Data show that 3.6 million retail crimes were committed, with direct financial costs to the industry of £660 million in 2015-16.

The BRC found that fraudsters are using much more sophisticated technology to bilk customers, including phishing, data theft, social engineering, and doxxing.“  Retailers are doing everything possible to ensure that staff members and customers are safe and protected. But this rising tide should be stemmed through even stronger cooperation between industry, the government, law enforcement and the private security industry”. The survey covered 37% of the retail industry by turnover and 35% by employees, equaling 1.1 million staff.  [For more: European Supermarket Magazine]

Mississippi house panel advances stiff punishment for cargo theft

One bill on the move at the Mississippi statehouse would deter the theft of truck, rail or container cargo through stiff punishment.

 The House Judiciary B Committee voted to advance a bill to establish cargo theft as a specific offense and to impose felony charges with escalating fines and punishment based on the value of goods.  

According to FreightWatch International, Mississippi ranks in the top 20 of states in the number of cargo thefts. Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey and Georgia are in the top five.

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which has about 2,130 members residing in Mississippi, says the legislative effort to deter cargo theft is a reasonable and overdue deterrent intended to better protect the livelihood of the men and women that help drive the economy.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, said cargo theft is bad for everyone involved in the supply chain, especially truck drivers.

 “When a trucker becomes the victim of theft, it can be financially devastating,” Matousek said.  “Such an occurrence could effectively put our members, the majority of whom are single truck owner-operators, out of business. 

“The same goes for those involved in seasonal operations as they miss out on a year’s income in a short period of time.  ”

In an effort to discourage thefts in Mississippi, Rep. Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat, introduced the bill that calls for offenders to face prison in addition to monetary penalties. Specifically, thieves who steal cargo from trucks loaded with controlled substances, or pharmaceuticals, valued at less than $10,000 would face fines up to $100,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.

Theft of controlled substances valued up to $1 million could result in as much as 25 years behind bars and/or fines up to $1 million. Loads valued in excess of $1 million could result in prison terms as long as 30 years and/or fines up to $1 million.

 Violators of other property heists valued as much as $1,000 would face misdemeanor charges. Theft of cargo valued as high as $10,000 would include fines up to $100,000 and/or 10 years behind bars. Stolen loads valued in excess of $10,000 could result in 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $1 million.  

Another provision in the bill covers fifth wheels, and any anti-theft locking device attached to the fifth wheel. Any attempt to alter, move or sell a fifth wheel could result in 10-year prison terms and/or $100,000 fines.

 HB722 awaits further consideration in the House.  [For more: Land Line Magazine]

Trump border tax would be a major blow for the troubled retail and restaurant sector

The U.S. restaurant and retail sector, already struggling in a world of changing consumer tastes, evolving shopping habits and shrinking discretionary spending, will be walloped if President Donald Trump pushes ahead with his proposal for a tariff or border tax, according to credit and equity analysts. Already, the combined restaurant and retail sector had the highest distress ratio of any sector in January, overtaking the oil and gas sector, which has dominated the list for the past two years.

“Retail news flow remains biased to the negative side through early 2017, and it is difficult to place a finger on any catalyst that will bring investor sentiment in the sector back to favorable standing ahead of the scheduled round of fourth-quarter 2016 earnings releases [in mid-February through mid-March],” said analysts at research firm CreditSights.  [For more: Market Watch]

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