Breaking News in the Industry: June 30, 2017

Woman faces prison after eighth shoplifting case in three years

A 25-year-old woman who has pleaded guilty in six separate shoplifting cases in the last three years is again accused of thieving from stores, this time more than $200 worth of goods from a Saginaw County Kohl’s in Saginaw, Michigan. During her arraignment Rebecca E. Wiechec had to appear on video, as she’s lodged in the Bay County Jail in another felony retail fraud case. In Saginaw County, Wiechec is charged with first-degree retail fraud and possession of under 25 grams of a heroin-mixed controlled substance. First-degree retail fraud is a 5-year felony. 

The charges stem from a May 4 incident, according to the arrest warrant. The Bay City resident has a misdemeanor retail fraud rap sheet in that county stretching back to September 2014, when she pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree retail fraud. From there, she pleaded guilty to second-degree retail fraud in April 2015, November 2015, June 2016 and then September 2016, according to court officials.

A month after the last case, she pleaded guilty to second-degree retail fraud in Saginaw County. Second-degree retail fraud means a person stole merchandise worth $200 to $1,000, or that they stole less, but have a prior store theft conviction. If a person stole that amount and has a prior conviction, they can be charged with the five-year felony first-degree retail fraud. Wiechec has a $25,000 bond in Bay County, where she’s charged with first-degree retail fraud on accusations she stole more than $200 worth of goods from a Meijer store in June and has an upcoming settlement hearing, according to court officials. In Saginaw County, Wiechec was given a $7,500 bond. She remains lodged in the Bay County Jail.  [For more: Mlive]

Security guard arraigned on charges of shooting man over alleged meat theft

A 24-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, man who worked as a security guard at Kroger on Frayser Boulevard was arraigned Wednesday on charges of shooting a man in the arm over an alleged theft of meat from the store.  Police said in an incident report that Gregory Towner told an officer on Monday that men had stolen meat and that he fired a warning shot in the direction of their truck when they tried to leave.

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The victim told police he was pulling off of the parking lot in a 1997 Dodge Dakota when he heard a shot and was struck in the right arm. A woman was lying in the back seat of the truck and also heard the shot, according to court records. When police arrived at the scene, they found the man sitting in the passenger seat of the truck that had a broken back window. He was bleeding heavily with blood on the driver’s seat and center console.  The victim said he had driven his friend to Kroger and waited in the truck while his friend went inside. He started to drive away when the friend returned to the truck, but then the gunshot rang out. The victim said Towner came up to the vehicle and began arguing with the friend over an alleged theft from the store.  “It was later determined that a theft of meat in the amount of $117.30 had occurred however police were never called because the merchandise was returned,” police said in a report.

Towner was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. His .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun was recovered. The gunshot victim was taken to Regional Medical Center in non-critical condition. Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge Gerald Skahan appointed a public defender as Towner could not make his $40,000 bond. Central Defense Security declined to comment..  [For more: The Commercial Appeal]

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2017 US Independence Day impact on retail

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2017 Annual Independence Day Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more Americans plan to celebrate Independence Day this year than last year. Total spending for the holiday is estimated at $7.1 billion, up 4.4% from last year. Whether it is due to the expected nice weather or favorable gas prices, the survey estimates that 219 million people plan to celebrate July 4th this year. The average household estimates it will spend $73.42 on food for cookouts and barbecues, up from last year’s average of $71.34. Among those surveyed, 65.5% plan to attend barbecues, 43.6% are going to attend fireworks or a community celebration and 13.5% plan on going to a parade.

The 4th of July is a busy time for travel and vacations, and an estimated 13.3%, or 33 million people, plan to head out of town this year. With gasoline prices low, only 18% said gas prices will impact their travel plans. This is down from 21% last year and down from a peak of 59% in 2008, when gas prices were much higher. There has been an increasing trend in the popularity of patriotic merchandise for the July 4th holiday. In 2009, 60% of survey respondents said they owned a flag; this increased to an estimated 65% in 2017, a 5-percentage point increase. In addition, the percentage of respondents who own patriotic apparel rose from 45% in 2009 to 53% in 2017. About 28% of Americans plan to purchase additional patriotic merchandise over the next 30 days. Some 39% of Americans said they did not plan to purchase additional items, and 34% said they were not sure. Figure 4 highlights consumer holiday spending trends, and shows that July 4th spending ranks just behind Halloween spending. To conclude, Independence Day offers a great opportunity for retailers to boost their sales. They should seize the momentum of holiday spending with more directed marketing campaigns and discounts to attract customers, especially during a particularly difficult year in the industry.  [For more: Fung Global Retail Tech]

Former police officer sentenced to 40 years in prison after string of area burglaries

A former Edwardsville, Illinois, Police officer has been sentenced to 40 years in prison following a string of burglaries in the Edwardsville area. Brian Barkerwas originally charged with one count of burglary (Class 2 Felony) and one count of official misconduct (Class 3 Felony) related to a December 2014 burglary at Reality Salon and Spa in Edwardsville. Further investigation into unsolved burglaries in the Edwardsville area led to several additional charges against Barker including burglary, residential burglary (Class 1 Felony), and aggravated unlawful possession of stolen firearms (Class X felony). The burglaries occurred at various businesses in the Edwardsville area including several law firms and retail establishments. The residential burglary occurred in Moro. On January 30, 2017, Barker pleaded guilty to three charges of burglary and one count each of official misconduct, aggravated possession of stolen firearms, and residential burglary – charges that were the core of the multitude of cases discovered during the investigation – preventing the need for a series of multiple, costly trials that would have delayed the resolution of the cases for years. With the resolution of these charges, restitution for the victims is anticipated.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Jennifer Mudge and Assistant State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe, Chief of the Criminal Division, prosecuted the case for the State’s Attorney’s Office, presenting witness and victim testimony before Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli who handed down Barker’s 40-year sentence.“Barker’s crime spree shook the foundation of faith we have in those who are sworn to protect our community,” said State’s Attorney Gibbons. “With this 40-year sentence today, we can begin the process of restoring trust and confidence in the men and women in our local law enforcement agencies who give everything they have, day and night, in service to our safety.” Gibbons thanked Madison County Sheriff John Lakin for providing the immediate assistance and excellent investigative work of his department in conducting the independent investigation of the matter. He furthermore commended the Edwardsville Police Department for their immediate action upon learning of the allegation.  [For more: RiverBender]

Employee and one other charged in theft of $22K in liquor

Two men, one a Department of Liquor Control (DLC) employee, have been charged with the theft of nearly $22,000 worth of alcohol from box trucks parked at the DLC warehouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland, police said. Both men, DLC employee Kelvin Eugene Snowden Jr., 31, of Gaithersburg and Jean Auguste, 27, of Lanham, posted $3,500 bail, according to online court records. In February, the DLC reported to police that someone had stolen alcohol from their trucks on Feb. 14 and Feb. 24, police said in a statement. Detectives determined that someone entered the DLC grounds, on Edison Park Drive, by climbing over the lot’s perimeter fence when the agency was closed and gates secured, police said. The person broke the security seal on multiple trucks, entered the cargo areas, and stole boxes of alcohol. The suspect was recorded on DLC video surveillance. Police said that as the investigation proceeded, six other thefts occurred at the DLC site: On April 23, April 30, May 7, May 16, May 26 and May 28. During the May 28 theft, security personnel at the DLC saw the suspect on video surveillance and immediately called police, police said.

A Rockville District midnight shift officer, who had been briefed by detectives about the thefts, responded and saw a Chevrolet Suburban parked in the far corner of the Lakelands Park Middle School basketball court, police said. Lakelands Park Middle, at 1200 Main St., is next to the DLC lot. The officer made contact with the Suburban’s driver who was identified as Auguste, police said. The officer saw multiple boxes of alcohol in the SUV, which were determined to have been stolen from the DLC. Patrol officers arrested Auguste, and he charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary and theft, police said. He was taken to the Central Processing Unit. Detectives, with the assistance of patrol officers, developed Snowden as the suspect who was unlawfully entering the DLC lot, stealing alcohol from trucks, and selling the alcohol on at least one occasion (May 28) to Auguste, police said. Snowden was arrested Wednesday on the strength of a Montgomery County warrant, charging him with theft offenses and malicious destruction of property. He was taken to the Central Processing Unit. [For more: MyMcMedia]

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