More than $9 million in goods stolen from multiple retailers sold at flea markets; 3 charged
Two men and a woman are accused of fencing millions of dollars’ worth of goods stolen from Upstate South Carolina stores for resale at flea markets. Anderson County deputies, working with several retail crime investigators, say they determined in June that shoplifters were stealing large amounts of merchandise from various stores in Anderson, including Home Depot, CVS, T.J. Maxx, Belk and Publix. The shoplifters would then sell the merchandise for a fraction of the retail value to other people who acted as fences. The fences would resell the merchandise at flea markets for profit.
Investigators estimate that retailers lost $9 million to $12 million to the fencing operation over a five-year period. Investigators identified Troy Fowler, 75, of Piedmont, and William “Billy” O’Leary, 44, and Peggy O’Leary, 41, both of Anderson, as suspected fences in the operation. On July 12, investigators searched properties belonging to the O’Learys and Fowler. They recovered an estimated $121,997 in stolen merchandise was recovered from both locations. Detectives also recovered a four-wheeler that had been reported from Abbeville County. The O’Learys and Fowler were arrested and charged with organized retail theft. [Source: WYFF4 News]
Police seek paint crew members in $54,000+ theft from clothing stores
Arrest warrants have been issued for three members of a four-man Texas paint crew accused of stealing more than $54,000 worth of clothing from JoS. A. Bank Clothiers while they were supposed to be renovating the two Little Rock, Arkansas stores. A fifth defendant, a security guard from Benton who had been hired to watch the crew, has already been arrested. All five men are charged with Class B felony theft, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The three crew members — all classified as fugitives from justice by court order of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims — are Rudolfo Campos-Juarez, 40, of Fort Worth; and Kyle Thomas Anderson, 22, and 23-year-old Ruben Flores, both residents of the Fort Worth suburb Watauga. Sims has ordered the men held without bail after they are taken into custody, and they could face additional charges for missing court. The fourth member, 32-year-old James Brewer of Fort Worth — the crew foreman who has cooperated with detectives — is the only one to have shown up to be arraigned. He was in court on Monday. The guard, 47-year-old Jeffery Howard McClendon of Benton, was arrested about five weeks after the thefts. He is currently free on $10,000 bond.
The police probe began with a Sept. 9 complaint from manager Sandra Wilkie, 59, for the store at 12800 Chenal Parkway. She told investigators that she came into work that morning and saw too many empty shelves, according to a police report. Wilkie told officer Jeffrey Frazier the store security video showed the paint crew who had been working the past two nights at the store, along with the security guard stationed to watch them, stealing clothes. More than $44,000 in merchandise was missing, the police report states. Wilkie also gave Frazier a note she’d received from Brewer, the crew foreman, along with a cellphone video of the security guard showing the painting crew how to stop the store surveillance camera feed, the report said. Wilkie said Brewer told her that’d he’s already reported the thefts to his supervisors so she didn’t need to get involved. Wilkie said she called police after discovering that the thefts hadn’t been reported to JoS. A. Bank corporate management.
The next morning, Wilkie and Britany Braun, 29, from the JoS. A. Bank store at 203 N. University Ave., tracked the paint crew to the Hilton hotel at 925 S. University Ave., where they found Brewer’s black 2014 Toyota Tundra pickup, according to a police report. Police arrested the men in their hotel rooms. Officers collected a “large amount” of clothing after Brewer, who had rented the rooms, gave police permission to search. Brewer later turned over more stolen clothing to police.
The manager of the North University Avenue store, 55-year-old Delphi Oglesby, told police his staff was still checking but that so far they had $10,600 worth of clothes missing. The same paint crew and guard had worked overnight in his store on Sept. 6, he told officer Nicholas Kinsey. Of the five defendants, McClendon, formerly of Hot Springs, is the only one who appears to have a criminal record. Charging papers show he has at least four felony convictions. Garland County Circuit Court records show he has a 1998 conviction for commercial burglary, a forgery conviction from 1991 and residential burglary convictions in 1990 and 1991. [Source: Arkansas Online]
Diner owner to make $91,000 in restitution for credit card fraud
A judge ordered the owner of the Schuyler Diner in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, on Friday to devise a more aggressive payment plan on the $91,000 in restitution he agreed to pay for running a credit card fraud scheme that benefited his restaurant. Sanjiv Kumar, of Paramus, was due to be sentenced in Superior Court on Friday under the terms of a plea deal in which he would avoid jail time by repaying a portion of the $138,000 in illegal purchases on his credit cards.
On Friday, Judge Frances McGrogan, however, told Kumar that the $250 per month payments he agreed to were “wholly insufficient” given his income and assets. “I need to see more of an effort on your part to pay the debt that you said you would repay,” she said. McGrogan adjourned the sentencing to Aug. 31, enough time for Kumar to make a $20,000 down payment on his restitution, she said. “I don’t have anything to say, your honor,” Kumar told the judge Friday.
Police began investigating Kumar, 49, in June 2014 when he reported fraudulent activity on his credit cards on four separate occasions. Authorities found that Kumar would make purchases on his cards and report them stolen several months later. A majority of the illegal purchases were made at Restaurant Depot, a wholesale food service supplier, police had said. Assistant Prosecutor Megan Kilzy said the type of fraudulent activity Kumar undertook helps to raise interest rates for all card holders, and creates a “Peter and wolf situation” for people who report actual fraud, referring to the fairy tale about a boy who falsely cried wolf too often. The plea deal Kumar reached also includes five years of probation.
“Reimbursement means more than having Mr. Kumar behind bars,” Kilzy said. Paramus police arrested Kumar in February 2017 after more than a year of investigating. He was charged with theft by deception, making false statements and hindering prosecution. “This is an ongoing chain of events that Mr. Kumar’s precipitated. He realizes that what he was doing harmed people,” Howard Bailey, Kumar’s attorney, said Friday. [Source: NorthJersey.com]
Suspect arraigned on 22 charges related to criminal enterprise activity
A 25-year-old Wyandotte, Michigan, man faces several serious charges that could put him behind bars for many years based on allegations that he was conducting a criminal enterprise at his pawn shop. On Wednesday afternoon, the Canton Police Department executed a search warrant at Tony’s Pawn Shop, 1325 Fort St., in Wyandotte. The search warrant was issued following five months of investigation by the Canton Police Department and Michigan State Police, with assistance from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, into alleged criminal enterprise activity occurring at the pawn shop. Anthony Paul Wojtala was arraigned Thursday in 27th District Court in Wyandotte on 22 charges that are in connection with an alleged organized retail fraud scheme involving the purchases of items stolen from Canton Township big box stores and sold through Tony’s Pawn Shop. According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, between March 8 and July 10 of this year, it’s alleged that Wojtala had a continuing criminal enterprise involving the purchase of high-value and high-demand goods stolen from Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger and Meijer stores in Canton Township.
It is alleged that Wojtala purchased the items and sold some of them through Tony’s Pawn Shop. It’s further alleged that the pawn shop owner also took possession of stolen items and sold them from his Wyandotte residence. Investigation by the Canton Police Department led to Wojtala’s arrest. The arraignment was conducted by 27th District Judge Randy Kalmbach, who set Wojtala’s bond at $250,000/10 percent, with a GPS tether. Wojtala’s probable cause conference is scheduled on July 27 with Judge James Kandrevas in 28th District Court in Southgate. His preliminary examination is scheduled to be held back at 27th District Court on Aug. 2.“This is yet another case that illustrates how businesses in Wayne County are continuously fleeced,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. “The alleged behavior of this defendant affects every consumer in our region.” [Source: The News-Herald]
Fraudster exchanges iPhones after removing components
A New York man was arrested after he removed the components from two Apple iPhones and attempted to swap them for new phones at the Orland Square Apple Store in Illinois, prosecutors said. Sylwester Banasik appeared before Cook County Judge Peter Felice on a felony theft charge. “Oh my God,” Felice said. “The Apple Store. We get one of these a week.”
Around 4:30 p.m. July 14, the prosecutor said Banasik walked into the Apple Store with two phones that he claimed were damaged. An employee determined the phones had been bought at the Naperville Apple Store earlier in the day. Both were eligible to be swapped under the Apple Care Plan. Banasik allegedly told the employee that he forgot something at home and abruptly left, taking his phones with him.
A few days later, on July 16, Banasik was back with the phones. Both phones, which had their components removed, were fraudulently traded for two new iPhones, the prosecutor said. The total value of the phones was $1,718. Loss prevention associates called Orland Park police, who came to the store where they arrested Banasik without incident. The prosecutor said that employees positively identified Banasik at the scene.
The assistant public defender told the judge that Banasik was a Polish national and in the United States on a tourist visa. He came to Chicago to visit some female friends. “He came for a short visit,” the assistant public defender said. “A short visit? To the Apple Store,” Felice asked. Felice told Banasik that he had to come back for all of his court hearings. “Can you do that,” the judge asked. “I guess I have to.” Banasik has no prior criminal record. Bail was set at $5,000. The judge admonished Banasik that he had to return for his hearings or he would be tried and sentenced in absentia. Banasik’s next court date is August 2 in Bridgeview. [Source: Orland Park Patch]
Robbers hit stores for months… and forced kids to do their dirty work
The duo’s robbery spree went on for months in cities across Southern California, according to authorities. But they weren’t the ones doing the heavy lifting. Darrell Campbell, 32, would walk through major retail stores with children and point to merchandise he wanted the kids to steal, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. Then the kids would cart the stolen goods out of the store, where Jeammie Preston, 32, was waiting in their getaway car, deputies said.
Campbell would pull out a knife to threaten stores’ security officers as the children left with the stolen items, deputies said. The children of the pair, Patch reports. Campbell and Preston were arrested on July 12 in Moreno Valley, the town east of Los Angeles where the couple lives, according to the sheriff’s office. Three children were taken into Child Protective Services custody at the time. Both Campbell and Preston face conspiracy, robbery, grand theft and child endangerment charges, the sheriff’s office said. They are being held at a jail in Banning , according to jail records obtained by the Press-Enterprise.
Moreno Valley police began investigating the string of robberies in June, according to the sheriff’s office. But the crimes had been going on much longer — and the pair had struck well beyond Moreno Valley, deputies said. As far back as October 2017, Campbell and Preston struck retailers in Eastvale, Glendora, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Riverside and San Bernardino, the sheriff’s office said. Campbell has been convicted of robbery in the past, Patch reports. Both had an initial court appearance scheduled for Tuesday, the Press-Enterprise reports. Authorities said that anyone with tips in the case can reach out to Moreno Valley police. [Source: Riverdale Standard]