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Breaking News in the Industry: May 5, 2017

Texas Kroger employee accused of stealing $275,000 from self-checkout registers

A Kroger store employee has been arrested and charged with theft after stealing $275,000 from registers, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. According to deputies, Dana Williams, 29, was in charge handling the cash dispersal for the self-service checkout registers at the Kroger located at 9703 Barker Cypress Road.

Kroger’s loss prevention department said it started to notice the false deposits and transfers after Williams called out sick for a couple of days. Officials said when she came back to work, they watched her on surveillance camera and saw her pocketing money and using various fraud mechanisms to conceal her thefts. According to investigators, Williams had been working for Kroger since 2014, but they do not believe she started pocketing the money until March 2016. Williams is being held in jail on a $500,000 bond, and she is set to appear in court on May 31. [For more: NBC4i News]

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Felon ‘layaway’ thefts land 2 in Washington jail

Pasco, Washington, police are calling it “felony theft on a layaway plan” after arresting two people for multiple shoplifting trips to Walmart. Store loss prevention staff called police at 7:07 p.m. on Wednesday to report shoplifters leaving the store in a red van. The van was stopped nearby and three people detained by police.

Pasco Walmart LP told officers they documented the three people stealing seven times since April 14. Sometimes it was one person, other times it was different combinations of two of them. They were accused of stealing more than $1,200 worth of merchandise and returning the items for cash refunds. Javier “JJ” Chavez Junior III, 20, of Pasco, and Dayana Bustos Ruelas, 19, were booked into the Franklin County jail on 72-hour investigative holds for second-degree organized retail theft. The third suspect was not arrested.

The crime of organized retail theft is when a suspect has stolen several times from the same store within 180 days. If the value of the stolen items totals more than $750, the crime becomes a felony. “That’s why we referred to it as ‘a felony on the layaway plan,’” said police.  [For more: Tri-City Herald]

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Atlanta police officer turns shoplifting call into uplifting experience for a needy family

An Atlanta Police officer went above and beyond the call of duty when he stepped up to help the family of a girl who was caught shoplifting. According to the Police Department, on Feb. 18 officer Che Milton was called to a Family Dollar store. The store employees had caught a 12-year-old girl shoplifting a pair of $2 shoes. She said she needed them for her five-ear-old sister and couldn’t afford to pay for them. Instead of hauling the child to jail, the officer took her home

“After speaking with the young lady Officer Milton was curious to see what the girls living conditions were like so he took her home,” the Police Department says. “The girl was the oldest of four children; their ages ranging from newborn to 12 and their living conditions were poor. There were not enough beds for all of the children, the only furniture in the house was an old sofa and there was not much food in the home.” The mother told the officer she couldn’t work because she couldn’t afford daycare for the smaller children. She said her husband works in and out of town but didn’t make enough to provide for the family.

“Officer Milton was sympathetic to the family’s situation and felt that he needed to do something,” the Police Department said. “He advised [the Division of Family and Children Services] of the situation to find out if a social worker could assist the family with their living situation.” The officer bought the family four pizzas and two large beverages. He paid for it out of his own pocket and personally delivered it to the family. The family was thankful, but officer Milton didn’t brag about his good deed. “Officer Milton did not help this family in hopes of receiving any recognition,” the Police Department said. “In fact, another officer came forward to commend Officer Milton. The way that Officer Milton handled this incident showed that not only is he here to enforce the law but also to go the extra mile and be a bigger part of the community he is policing.”

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The Police Department is collecting donations for the family. They can be delivered to 2315 Donald Lee Hollowell Pkwy NW, Atlanta, GA 30318. Donations will be accepted from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, the Police Department says.  [For more: Atlanta Loop]

Convicted shoplifter charged with scamming Victoria’s Secret

A man accused of robbing a Niles jewelry store of $300,000 worth of merchandise was indicted Tuesday by a Trumbull County grand jury on felony charges connected to the case.  Zachary E. Bradford, 35, of Perkinswood Boulevard SE, faces three counts of aggravated robbery and three counts of kidnapping, all with firearm specifications.

A woman with an extensive history of shoplifting convictions is charged with trying to rip off Victoria’s Secret in an online ordering scam that cost the company thousands of dollars. Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh have charged Charlene Moff, 59, with two counts of mail fraud. Prosecutors said she would order products, then call the company falsely claiming that the merchandise was lost or stolen from the mail or that the orders were missing items when she did receive them. Victoria’s Secret either credited Moff’s account or shipped replacement items, neither of which Moff was entitled to receive, prosecutors said. The scam cost the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer of women’s undergarments thousands of dollars, though federal prosecutors didn’t offer details in the court filing and wouldn’t otherwise comment on it Wednesday.

The New Derry woman has four felony retail theft convictions in Westmoreland County, where she lives, one each in 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015, according to online court dockets. Moff never received more than probation. Jackie Kneupp, of the Westmoreland County district attorney’s office, said felony charges are filed after two misdemeanor retail theft convictions, and the most recent cases involved thefts from Wal-Mart of two DVDs and then clothing, food and toys totaling $86.

The two federal mail fraud counts each carry up to 20 years in prison. They were filed Tuesday in a criminal information, a document that bypasses an indictment and generally signals a person intends to plead guilty. Moff’s public defender, Jay Finkelstein, doesn’t comment to the news media. The case was brought to the attention of federal authorities by a Victoria’s Secret loss prevention specialist. The company did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday. Moff didn’t immediately return a call to her home phone.  [For more: WHIO TV7 News]

Manhattan DA busts 39 people in social media debit card scam that yielded $2.5M in fake checks

Thirty-nine people were busted in a debit card scam that led to more than $1 million in stolen funds, authorities said Wednesday. The defendants used various social media sites, like Instagram and Snapchat, to attract participants to give up bank account information in exchange for quick cash, authorities said.

“What the defendants were selling was the fast money lifestyle,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said. Vance, who announced the takedown along with NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, said willing participants gave up their account numbers and debit card information in exchange for the promise of a payoff to come. They were instructed to report their cards stolen — but instead the data was used for counterfeit check making

The group, headed by groups affiliated with the Bloods, was based in Staten Island. Checks were cashed at several major banks, including Bank of America and Chase. Members even posted photos of themselves surrounded with wads of cash and posing with fancy cars.
More than $2.5 million in counterfeit checks were deposited and $1 million was withdrawn by the group, prosecutors said.  [For more: Daily News]

Sabre Corp investigating breach of reservation system

Travel services company Sabre Corp., acknowledged this week that it’s in the middle of investigating a data breach in its Hospitality Solutions reservation system that may have spilled personally identifiable information and payment card data belonging to its customers. The Texas-based company disclosed the breach Tuesday in a quarterly 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the filing, attackers may have secured access to payment information contained in a subset of hotel reservations processed through SynXis, the company’s central reservation system. The platform, a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) solution, allows employees to access room pricing, scheduling, and availability at participating hotels. It’s unclear exactly what the company means by a “subset of hotel reservations.” According to marketing materials on Sabre’s site, SynXis is used at more than 36,000 properties. According to iDataLabs, the platform is used by nearly 500 hospitality companies, including the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group and the Commune Hotel and Resort group—now Two Roads Hospitality, to name a few.

The company said that unauthorized access to the system had been shut off and that there’s no evidence of “continued unauthorized activity at this time.” Sabre did not get into details of the breach, such as when it began, when it was mitigated, how an attacker may have gotten access to the system, but acknowledged that the compromise of “PII, PCI, or other information” could be a risk. Sabre said in an accompanying press release on Tuesday it has contacted law enforcement and hired cybersecurity firm Mandiant to assist in its investigation.  [For more: ThreatPost]

Why the retail crisis could be coming to American groceries

The American grocery store has so far been mostly immune to the ravages of online shopping and the all around apocalyptic outlook facing the nation’s retailers. But a war is coming to the staid supermarket, and that could mean more consolidation, bankruptcies, and falling prices. An invasion is getting under way. Lidl, a German retailer known for low prices and efficient operations, is expected to start an aggressive U.S. expansion in the coming weeks that could open as many as 100 new stores across the East Coast by the summer of 2018. The company, which runs about 10,000 stores in Europe, has also set its sights on Texas, one of the most competitive grocery markets in the U.S. Analysts expect Lidl to expand to nearly $9 billion in sales by 2023.

The last thing U.S. grocers need is more cutthroat competition. As the ranks of U.S. grocery stores have swelled, food has become a way for struggling brick-and-mortar retailers such as dollar stores and pharmacies to compete for customers. Even though groceries have been somewhat insulated from online pressure, remains dedicated to cracking the code, finally, on fresh food. “It’s an intimidating time for a lot of these retailers,” said Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “We’re poised to see a lot more change in the next couple of years.” These are the five forces that are going shake up the landscape of American groceries.

These are tough times for the U.S. retail industry, with stores closing at a record pace so far in 2017. It’s no secret why: Amazon is gobbling up more and more sales of clothing, electronics, and other items that once drew shoppers to department stores and malls. The grocery business has been a safe haven in recent years. Only about 1 percent of the roughly $1.5 trillion industry has moved online. That’s made supermarkets an attractive real estate tenant in an era when other shopping has moved from the mall to the living room couch. The reliability of food sales has also drawn more and more stores into the market for prepared food, snacks, and other traditional grocery items as a reliable driver of store traffic. After all, we have to eat and get more garbage bags. “It’s perceived as relatively impervious to the shift online,” James Cook, director of retail research at JLL, said of the grocery business. “For most of America, food is not purchased online.”  [For more: Bloomberg]

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