Breaking News in the Industry: June 22, 2018

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Police officer, 3 family members arrested in organized retail theft ring

A former Wichita Falls, Texas, police officer, his wife, son and stepdaughter were arrested for their alleged part in an organized retail theft ring.  Scott Bradley Higgins, 54, Angelique Renee Higgins, 50, Spencer Alan Higgins, 20, and Sydney Leanne Stockton, 30, were all booked into the Wichita County Jail on Tuesday.
Angelique and Stockton have only been charged with Organized Retail Theft Over $300,000. Scott and Spencer face the same charge in addition to one count of Money Laundering Over $300,000.

According to an arrest affidavit, an investigation took place over the course of a year with several agencies looking into the illegal activities of Scott Higgins. In the documents, it states he is medically retired from the Wichita Falls Police Department. Investigators were made aware of a ‘scheme’ where Scott Higgins would buy expensive retail items that had been stolen from retail stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s. Local, drug-addicted individuals who would then sell the merchandise to Scott Higgins for a third or half of the retail price stole these items. Scott Higgins would then sell those items on sites like Amazon or eBay, according to authorities.

An investigation began on August 2, 2017, when Target regional asset protection contacted the WFPD about numerous thefts at Target stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area by suspects who live in Wichita Falls. One of the suspects told investigators he was stealing the items at the direction of a man named Scott Higgins. Detectives went onto speak with several suspects involved in different thefts across the north Texas area who all stated they were stealing the items to sell to Scott Higgins. Several of those suspects said they would meet Scott, Angelique, or Spencer on several different occasions to sell the stolen merchandise, according to the arrest warrants.

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Investigators listened to telephone calls made from the Wichita County Jail between some of the suspects and Scott Higgins where he would talk about helping the suspects to make bail but referred to one as getting “deeper and deeper in this hole,” according to court documents. In April 2018, surveillance was setup at the home of Higgins. Law enforcement officials could see ‘enormous’ amounts of new retail merchandise in his garage. Scott Higgins was observed loading multiple boxed items from inside his garage into the back of his truck. Scott was then followed to a shipping store on Kemp Blvd. Scott was seen taking six tankless hot water heaters into the store, standing in line and shipping the items.   [Source: News Channel 6 Now]

Police nab $300,000 of fake designer handbags during bust

Police on Long Island, New York, seized $300,000 worth of fake designer handbags and arrested a man in a counterfeit bust on Monday.

 Investigators in Nassau County say 56-year-old Edik Yakubov allegedly sold fake Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors handbags out of his shoe repair store in New Hyde Park.The investigation into Yakubov, which began after police received a tip in April, found that he was allegedly buying the fake handbags for approximately $25 to $30 and then selling them to customers for $45. 

”Knockoff products can pose health and safety threats, damage reputable brands, and those who sell them frequently cheat the public by evading taxes,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “My office will continue to protect that taxpayers and law-abiding businesses through our aggressive pursuit of counterfeiters operating in Nassau.” Yakubov was charged with first degree counterfeiting and was released on his own recognizance.

 He’s due back in court on August 14.   [Source: ABC7 New York]

Suspect accused of trying to flee from police, resisting arrest

A 36-year-old Lancaster, Pennsylvania, man was arrested after trying to flee police who were taking him into custody for suspected retail theft, according to Northern Lancaster County Regional Police. Donald Weaver III, of the 400 block of Redwood Drive, was being questioned by police about suspected theft from a Target store on the 900 block of Lititz Pike when police say he fled into a wooded area near the store. Officer pursued Weaver on foot and took him into custody after a short chase. Weaver allegedly continued to resist arrest when he was captured, and was taken to Lancaster General Hospital for treatment of minor injuries sustained during a scuffle, police say. He allegedly attempted to escape from officers at the hospital and was restrained by hospital security officers. After an investigation, police determined Weaver was wanted by Lancaster City Police on unrelated charges. He was taken to Lancaster County Prison after his release from the hospital, police say. Weaver was charged with felony retail theft, flight to avoid apprehension and resisting arrest in the incident, police say.   [Source: Fox43 News]

Employee sentenced to 46 months in prison for embezzlement

A Chesapeake, Virginia, woman was sentenced Thursday to 46 months in prison for embezzling more than $1.18 million from a Hampton business. Susan Gray, 47, worked at Harbor Construction Company as the accounting manager. From January 2012 until January 2017, Gray is accused of running a scheme to embezzle from Harbor Construction, according to court records. Joey Caterbone, vice president of Harbor Construction, said it’s been a long year and a half after realizing the money had been stolen. The company does a variety of electrical system work throughout the region.

Records indicate she allegedly spent the money for her personal mortgage, travel, retail purchases, restaurants and the purchase of a car and failed to report $990,932.25 in unauthorized and embezzled funds on her filed income tax returns. Her plan fell apart in January 2017 when an accounting assistant noticed problems in the payroll. When confronted, Gray admitted to embezzling $160,000 and was asked to resign.”I actually took the bank records home that night did some research and found where she paid herself three times in one week,” said Caterbone. She said she would pay herself extra and then void it out like it was a mistake.  He said at times she would clock in 160 hours per week.

Caterbone said he is frustrated by what happened, but said he learned from the situation. He encourages other business leaders to report fraudulent behavior to authorities. He offered some advice: “Always know what is in the bank. Always know where you money is going and what is coming in. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions.” Gray was arrested for bank fraud, filing a false tax return and other related charges. She is scheduled to start serving her sentence on July 30. [Source: WTKR3 News]

Suspect taking off with stolen goods aimed low at LP associate

A woman attempting to escape with stolen goods from a Boscov’s at a South Jersey mall came face-to-face with a male loss prevention associate… and aimed low. specifically by “grabbing his genitalia and squeezing while trying to actively flee,” according to a criminal complaint. Vanessa Johnson, of Woodbury, was indicted earlier this month on charges of robbery, shoplifting and resisting arrest related to the incident at the Deptford Mall.

The complaint alleges that Johnson had $2,649 of Boscov’s clothing, jewelry and purses when she attempted to leave the department store and tussled with the loss prevention staff. At some point, police arrived to the scene, and an ambulance was called for Johnson. She was “combative” in the ambulance when officer Daniel Garr and detective Tim Parks attempted to handcuff her, the complaint says. It also alleges that Johnson kicked the cops and threw a bloody towel at them when they tried to handcuff her to a hospital bed. Throwing the towel resulted in a charge of throwing bodily fluid at law enforcement.   [Source:]

Video game retailer confirms buyout talks in wake of struggles and a data breach

Video game retailer GameStop confirmed that it is in discussions with third parties for a potential buyout. This followed a report from Reuters on Monday that New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners and possibly others are interested in the company, though GameStop did not mention any interested parties by name. Sycamore holds investments in retailers like Hot Topic and Staples. “There can be no assurance any agreement will result from these discussions,” the company said in a press release. “GameStop does not intend to make any additional comments regarding these discussions unless and until it is appropriate to do so.” The Texas-based retailer, which operates more than 7,200 stores across 14 countries, faced a data breach in June of last year and closed more than 100 locations.   [Source: The Sacramento Bee]

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