Ringleader of store theft crew sentenced to 16 years in prison
The ringleader of a criminal crew that stole more than $35,000 of goods from Denver-area home improvement stores was sentenced Friday to 16 years in prison. Christopher Rodriguez, 31, pleaded guilty in May to violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act, according to the Denver district attorney’s office. He also was ordered to pay $39,392 restitution.
A Denver grand jury in October indicted Rodriguez and 24 co-defendants on various additional charges, including money laundering, theft and violations of bail conditions. From December 2015 through December 2016, Rodriguez and others at his direction stole goods from various Home Depot and Lowe’s stores, according to the indictment. Stolen items were returned to the store in exchange for merchandise credit cards, which were then sold for cash and drugs.
Rodriguez provided room and board in Denver for some crew members, the release said. He also bailed some members out of jail, putting them back to “work” until they could repay the bail fee. Fraudulently obtained merchandise cards were typically sold for about 70 percent of the card’s value. At the time of the thefts, Rodriguez had been released on bail in a pending criminal case and was under supervision, which included electronic monitoring. The monitoring device placed him at the scene of one or more store thefts for which he was charged, prosecutors said. [Source: The Denver Post]
Police seek shoplifting suspects who cut LP associate
Police in Douglasville, Georgia, are asking the public to be on the lookout for two shoplifting suspects who cut a Walmart employee who tried to stop one of them from getting away. The suspects, including a man and woman, reportedly tried to shoplift about $2,000 worth of items from the Walmart store on Concourse Parkway. “A Walmart LP associate attempted to stop the male and in the process (the suspect) used an X-Acto knife to cut the associate’s hand,” the department stated on its Facebook page. The suspects left the scene in a late model, white Kia Sorrento with drive-out tags. Those with information were urged to call Detective Jetmore at 678.293.1725 or email. [Source: West Georgia Neighbor]
Seven people arrested in shoplifting sting
In Kentucky, a shoplifting sting from Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the St. Matthews Police Department led to several arrests. On Thursday and Friday, teams of officers focused on local malls and areas with a high concentration of retail stores. LMPD had more than 25 officers stationed at Oxmoor Center along with other stores like Kroger and Kohl’s. A total of 24 retailers participated in the operation.
Terry Young with Kroger loss prevention said several people were caught stealing from the Kroger stores snatching all sorts of items like pizza, cake and party supplies. LMPD held another sting in December, and Maj. Jamey Schwab said both were timed when retail theft also sees an increase. “Obviously, we do see a spike in the number of juveniles, especially in the malls when school gets out,” Schwab said. Officers arrested seven people and wrote nine citations. Four people were taken in on unrelated warrants. The sting recovered more than $2,400 in merchandise over two days.
Plain-clothed officers were stationed inside and outside the store communicating through an app on their phones. “As soon as they identify someone that they suspect of shoplifting, and this will be from actually observing the person concealing merchandise or trying to leave with merchandise from the store without paying, they then get on the app,” Schwab said. St. Matthews Police also had officers at Mall St. Mathews and stores along Shelbyville Road. [Source: WDRB News]
Wig-wearing women steal $35K in DVDs
Two San Antonio women are behind bars Thursday, accused of stealing more than $35,000 worth of DVD’s from Barnes & Noble. Investigators believe Kristina Rost, 32, and Theresa Tagtmeir, 25, have stolen at least 917 DVD’s totaling $35,118.83 over the past several months. In order to pull off the thefts, officials said that the pair would change into different wigs and outfits. They are accused of committing at least 15 to 20 thefts between three different San Antonio Barnes & Noble locations.
Loss prevention professionals were alerted to the thefts and were able to arrest Tagtmeir Wednesday at the Bandera location after witnessing her stuff a stack of DVD’s into her a bag she was carrying. Officials said at the time of the arrest, she was wearing a wig. Once in custody, Tagtmeir identified Rost as her accomplice in the crimes. She told investigators the pair was from Florida and had been selling the stolen DVD’s to CD Exchanges around the city. Both women have been charged with felony theft. [Source: KENS5 News]
Amazon fraudsters sentenced to almost six years in jail
Three people who stole $1.2 million in consumer electronics from Amazon via an elaborate returns scheme have received hefty prison sentences. Husband and wife, Erin Finan and Leah Finan, pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud and money laundering charges, and were sentenced to 71 months and 68 months in prison respectively. Danijel Glumac pleaded guilty to money laundering and to fencing the items the Finans stole and got 24 months in jail.
Between 2014 and 2016, the Finans and Glumac stole and sold over 2,700 consumer electronics items such as GoPro digital cameras, Microsoft Xboxes, Samsung smartwatches, Microsoft Surface tablets and Apple Macbooks. They exploited Amazon’s customer service policy by repeatedly falsely claiming that the electronics they ordered were damaged or not working, and then requesting and receiving replacements from the e-commerce giant at no charge. They created hundreds of false identities, retrieving their stolen goods from retail shipping stores all over Indiana, and selling them to Glumac, on a near-daily basis. In just over two years, they made roughly $750,000 from their scheme.
On top of that, they bounced checks, rented cars but didn’t paid for them and rented houses but, ah, you can guess the rest. They also committed another online fraud involving stealing high-end rental softball equipment and selling it on Facebook groups. “Consumer fraud not only unjustly enriches the perpetrator, it causes all of us to pay higher retail prices,” said United States Attorney Josh Minkler. “To those who seek to exploit the convenience of online shopping through fraud, remember this case. You will be caught. You will be prosecuted. And you will go to federal prison for a long time.” [Source: Retail Tech Innovation Hub]
Pulse nightclub security guard, once hailed a hero, is being sued by victims
As the first officer to exchange gunfire with the mass shooter who terrorized Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on the morning of June 12, 2016, Adam Gruler was quickly hailed a hero. For his actions, the Orlando Police Department honored him with a “Pulse Valor Award,” and Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) invited him to be her guest at Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. But nearly two years later, some of the victims and the families of those who died are telling a different story.
In a federal lawsuit filed in Orlando on Thursday, the victims and families claim that Gruler, who was working an extra job as Pulse’s security guard that night, remained outside “to ensure his own safety” while the gunman shot and killed 49 people and injured 68 others inside Pulse. Gruler is one of 31 Orlando police officers being sued but the only one of them identified by name. The plaintiffs contend that Gruler and the other Orlando police officers acted too slowly and failed to protect the nightclub’s patrons as the gunman, Omar Mateen, opened fire on the club and then held hostages for more than three hours inside a bathroom before he was shot and killed by police. At a news conference Thursday, family members of those who died, as well as those who were at the club that night, said they thought police could have saved more lives had they acted quicker.
In a joint statement released to various news outlets, the Orlando Police Department and City of Orlando, also a defendant, said they had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on the substance of the litigation. “Nearly two years after the horrific act of hate inside the Pulse nightclub, our community continues to mourn the 49 lives taken and provide support for all those impacted,” the statement said. “On the morning of June 12, 2016, federal, state and local law enforcement officers and first responders put themselves in harm’s way to save as many lives as possible.” The lawsuit accuses Gruler of being the first to fail the victims. The plaintiffs claim Gruler “abandoned his post” inside the club, making it easier for the shooter to enter without being stopped at the door. But in his account given to the Orlando Sentinel in the days after the shooting, Gruler said he left the club because he was searching for a teenager who had gotten in with a fake ID. Gruler couldn’t find him inside, he said, so he headed out to the parking lot to take a look — and that’s when he heard the shots ring out.
Dash cam footage captured Gruler firing at Mateen from the parking lot at 2:02 a.m., but, realizing he was outgunned, Gruler said he called for backup and remained outside. “Not only did the officer allow this to take place by apparently abandoning his post,” attorney Solomon Radner said at the Thursday news conference, “but also instead of immediately going in and neutralizing the shooter, he appeared to be primarily concerned about his own safety. He stayed outside where it was safe and allowed dozens of people to be massacred, knowing that was taking place, knowing that he was the only armed person there who could stop this. That was his job. [Source: The Washington Post]