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Breaking News in the Industry: April 30, 2018

Leader of organized Lego theft ring had $50K in stolen sets at home

A Portland, Oregon, man was arrested for allegedly organizing a Lego theft ring and selling thousands of dollars in stolen toys online. Raji Afife Azar, 40, was arrested Thursday after buying approximately $13,000 in stolen toys from undercover investigators. During a search of Azar’s Southeast Portland home, detectives found at least $50,000 in Lego sets stolen from Portland-area Fred Meyer stores alone. They also found more stolen items from other stores, according to the Portland Police Bureau. Azar’s theft ring used a network of thieves, many of whom were addicted to opioids and other drugs, to steal Lego sets from stores, according to police. Azar met these people and arranged the thefts online through sites like OfferUp and Craigslist. Azar met with the thieves and bought the stolen Legos for a fraction of their retail prices, investigators said. He then put the stolen toys up for sale online and made a profit. A 2017 investigation found that Legos are the targets of professional thieves around the country because they are hard to trace and can be sold quickly on the black market. Some sought-after Lego sets can sell for over $1,000. Police began tracking Azar earlier this year, when Fred Meyer loss prevention  investigators learned he was the leader of an organized theft ring responsible for thefts at Fred Meyer stores around the Portland metro area. Azar contacted undercover detectives, who he thought were prospective thieves, on multiple occasions, police said, and made a deal to buy stolen Legos Thursday morning, when he was arrested. He faces charges of first-degree aggravated theft, laundering a monetary instrument, 10 counts of first-degree theft and 15 counts of computer crime.   [Source: KGW8 News]

Driver who caused serious crash while fleeing police sentenced to prison

Steve McIntosh drove to the scene of a crash near the Lakeview Square Mall not knowing the condition of his wife. He asked police officers at the scene and they told him Kristin McIntosh was in the hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and he should go there. McIntosh returned to his car where the couple’s 10-year-old son was waiting. “My son looked at me and said, ‘Is mom dead?’ I didn’t have an answer and I didn’t know what to think or what to say,” he said Friday. They waited hours at the hospital for the doctor. “Thank God, he said ‘I think she is going to be OK. We went back and it looked like a corpse, blood and a mess everywhere and she wasn’t awake.” That was Nov. 10, 2016 and McIntosh said he spent nearly a year helping his wife recover from a head injury and broken ribs and pelvis and some permanent hearing loss. And he said the entire family has anxiety every time they are in the car and especially when they must drive through an intersection on Battle Creek’s south side. “My son would close his eyes and hold his breath because he didn’t want to go through it,” McIntosh said. McIntosh spoke to Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Lincoln about the crash which injured his wife as she sat in the first row of the courtroom gallery. They were there because the man convicted in March of causing the crash was being sentenced. Moments later Rayjan Heltzel, 20, of Kalamazoo, was ordered to spend 76 months to 10 years in prison. A jury convicted him of seven counts including fleeing from police, failure to stop at a personal injury accident, resisting police and retail fraud. He also must serve an additional two years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony because he was carrying a handgun.

Officers from several agencies were in the area working on a fradulent credit card sting when Heltzel stole the liquor and then refused to stop for officers. With two adults and a baby in a van he drove through three red lights and then caused a four-vehicle crash at the intersection where Kristin McIntosh was seriously injured. Heltzel then attempted to run from the scene, dropping a handgun, before he was arrested. Steve McIntosh said his family has suffered anger, frustration, sadness and depression because of the crash but “it is a blessing that she is alive and her with us and I am so thankful for that.” Heltzel turned to the couple and said he apologized to them and to his family.  Defense attorney Susan Mladenoff said Heltzel exercised poor judgement. “He was 19 years of age and relatively young and did what a lot of young people do. He showed a lot of poor judgment.” Assistant Calhoun County Prosecutor Tammy Towns called his actions “egregious and appalling conduct. The conduct he did that night put many people’s lives in harms way and forever impacted people we have heard from.” In addition to the injuries, Towns said the crash cost families and insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lincoln told Heltzel that, “I have rarely seen one person make a bad decision that led to this significant amount of destruction of property and injury to people. You made a decision that was so bad that you will end up in prison.” She said he put many lives in danger, including the mother of his child and the child who was in the van with him. “You took into consideration nothing but yourself,” she said. “I don’t know what type of person engages in that type of behavior with a baby in the car.”   [Source: Battle Creek Enquirer]

LP Solutions

Police nab duo accused of stealing from store and assaulting an LP associate

Authorities in New Hampshire arrested two individuals accused of stealing items from a Kohl’s department store. According to police, the incident happened around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday at the Kohl’s Department Store on 200 Quality Drive in Hooksett. The woman who police identified as Amanda Bailey-Roberge, 32 of Weare is accused of tripping and assaulting an LP associate who tried to stop her from leaving the store with clothes and a TV. The vehicle Bailey-Roberge got into was recorded and a state-wide alert was sent out to police. Around 3:30 p.m. officers found the vehicle, where they located the two suspects. Police took the driver Joseph Hanright, 28 of Allenstown, and Bailey-Roberge into custody. Bailey-Roberge faces robbery, organized retail crime, willful concealment, and simple assault charges. Police say she is scheduled to be arraigned at the Merrimack County Superior Court today. Hanright was charged with organized retail crime and willful concealment, he is scheduled to appear before the Merrimack County Superior Court on April, 30.   [Source: NH1]

Fraudster pleads guilty to $179K credit card-related fraud

A man waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of access device fraud, according to a federal press release. Between July 2014 and April 2015, Xiao Bin Xu, 22, of Bayside, N.Y., was a member of a group of individuals from New York who engaged in counterfeit credit card transactions at retail stores along the East Coast. Mei Bao Lu was the ringleader of the group, and Yang-Shi Lin was Lu’s second-in-command, the release said. As part of the scheme, Lu provided several individuals with counterfeit credit cards, produced from credit card information skimmed from cardholders, and directed the buyers to purchase gift cards and luxury merchandise using the counterfeit cards. Lu then sold the items to other individuals at a discount, to be fenced or sold on the black market, according to the release. Xu was one of the buyers in the group and also recruited other individuals to serve as buyers. The group engaged in fraudulent credit card transactions at retail stores in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In total, group members used 120 counterfeit credit cards, issued by 18 victim financial institutions, to make a total of approximately $179,000 in fraudulent purchases. The investigation began in February 2015 when the Clinton Police Department and other police departments in nearby Connecticut towns received several complaints from citizens about unauthorized charges on their credit and debit cards. An investigation revealed many of the complaining citizens had all dined at the same Clinton restaurant during a two-week period in early February 2015, the release stated.  Xu is scheduled to be sentenced July 24 and faces up to 10 years in prison. He has been released on bail since his arrest. Lu and Lin, both of Flushing, N.Y., previously pleaded guilty to related charges. Lin was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, while Lu was sentenced to 18 months. Several other members of Lu’s group were charged and convicted of credit card-related offenses in state and federal courts in Maine, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia, the release said.  [Source: The Middletown Press]

Couple accused of spending $45,000 with fake credit cards

In Maryland, a Bethesda man and a Germantown woman allegedly purchased more than $45,000 worth of merchandise with fake credit cards they set up using stolen personal information of 11 people. Jonathan Henry, 26, of Bethesda and Dominique Davis, 27, of Germantown were indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Maryland. Between October 2015 and this April, Henry and Davis allegedly stole personal information from at least five people in Montgomery County, three others in Maryland, one in Virginia and two from California, according to the federal indictment. They then used the information for purchases at Best Buys, Verizon stores and other places in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, prosecutors claim in the indictment. In April 2016, Henry allegedly used the information of a Bethesda resident to open a Sam’s Club membership and store credit card in the victim’s name in Salisbury, and then used the credit card to spend $1,200. In December 2017, they reportedly spent $3,813 at the Bethesda Apple store using a Barclay’s credit card in a Virginia resident’s name. In some cases, they allegedly used the victim’s personal information to create fake driver’s licenses, and later used the fake licenses to apply for store credit cards and cell phone service accounts. The indictment did not specify how Henry and Davis stole the personal information to forge the credit cards and licenses. In total, Henry and Davis allegedly made $45,206.13 in fraudulent purchases of electronics and other merchandise. Both face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud. Henry faces an additional 11 counts of aggravated identity theft, each of which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years.   [Source: Bethesda Magazine]

- Digital Partner -

Local business uses unique tactic to combat shoplifting

Shoplifting is a common problem across the country, but one Pocatello, Idaho, store owner is doing his part to combat the issue. We spoke with the owner of Enchantments in old town Pocatello who has a unique way of helping the police find shoplifters, but he says it’s not out of spite. He’s just trying to make the community a better place. Small businesses owners have a lot of fun serving their customers, and 95 percent of the customers that come through old town shops have just as much enjoyment shopping locally, but thievery and shoplifting are a prevalent threat that can ruin the trust between customer and owner. Ken Merhib, the Owner of Enchantments, said “As a small business it can be very harmful, it is actually quite harmful and it costs an awful amount of time and stress.” Shoplifting can be a problem everywhere but one local store has a very unique way to make the community better. Enchantments in Pocatello has taken to social media to share camera footage of any shoplifters. They’ve been able to help police close theft cases within 24 hours, and it helps deter those who would come into the store to shoplift. The owner also said “I think it’s helping a lot because i think that a lot of people now they see it on Facebook and they know we have the cameras so I think it deters a lot of people” But Enchantments is all about positive vibes. Words on the wall read keep your heart free from hate, and the shop keep takes the posts down as soon as a case is resolved… So it’s not used as a Facebook wall of shame. Merhib said, “I’m hoping that it helps the actual person that did the theft because hopefully they won’t do it again… So in the long run it’s not about spite. It’s about making the community better.”   [Source: KPVI6 News]

 

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