Breaking News in the Industry: June 4, 2018

Lingerie purchases lead to employee’s prison term in $243K embezzlement case

A former Apple employee’s penchant for Victoria’s Secret merchandise led to her arrest and conviction in a $243,000 embezzlement scheme, according to reports. Authorities in New Jersey said Toni Ann Branca, 42, was sentenced Friday to three years in a state prison. She had pleaded guilty in January to a second-degree theft by deception charge, Law360 reported.  The former administrative assistant for Apple used a company credit card to make purchases at the lingerie retailer and at Gucci and Louis Vuitton shops, authorities said.  But it was the Victoria’s Secret purchases that Apple discovered first, leading to her undoing, NJ.com reported.

Branca, of Livingston, N.J., worked mostly from home, handling scheduling and travel arrangements for other Apple employees, the report said, and she was issued an American Express card for making purchases related to her job. Investigators found that she submitted duplicate requests for reimbursement, to be paid straight to her bank account, and used the duplicate payments for her personal spending. A review found that Branca racked up $110,000 in retail spending, the Philadelphia Voice reported, and paid back $95,000 prior to her sentencing. “Branca went on a lavish shopping spree at the expense of her employer, but ultimately she bought herself a state prison term,” said Veronica Allende, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. “Our financial crimes bureau will continue to uncover these fraud schemes and bring those responsible to justice.”   [Source: Fox News]

Shoplifting crackdown at popular stores leads to 27 arrests

More than two-dozen people were charged and more than $4,900 was recovered in a three-day undercover police crackdown on shoplifting at major Lexington, Kentucky, stores. After working with retail loss prevention professionals in local stores from May 16 to May 18, detectives arrested 27 people and cited eight more on charges of theft and burglary. Detectives from the department’s property crimes section, violent crimes unit, and intelligence unit partnered with the Kentucky Organized Retail Crime Association (KORCA) for their biannual “Shoplifting Blitz” that focused on Hamburg, Richmond Road and New Circle Road shopping corridors.

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Partnering stores in the investigation were Kohl’s, Meijer, Lowe’s, Marshall’s, Walmart, Target, Old Navy, Victoria Secret and Ross in Hamburg; Kroger, Walmart and Lowe’s on Richmond Road; and Bryan Station Kroger and North Park Walmart off New Circle Road. Police Sgt. Jervis Middleton said the department pairs with retail crime association twice a year — once in May and once around the holiday season in December — to conduct the shoplifting “blitzes.”  “By doing that and sending out releases and sharing the photos, the detectives hope to prevent others from coming into stores and shoplifting,” Middleton said. Several of those arrested were also charged with failure to appear in court on other charges.   [Source: Lexington Herald Leader]

Bourbon theft ringleader sentenced to 15 years in prison

The ringleader of a whiskey theft operation in Kentucky was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for his role in siphoning tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of bourbon from a pair of distilleries. Having secured a place in Kentucky lore as “Pappygate,” the thefts included hard-to-get and pricey brands such as Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that were hauled under a tarp to potential buyers. The local sheriff estimated the recovered whiskey was worth at least $100,000.

The sentencing of former distillery worker Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger on Friday means the celebrated case is close to winding down. Of the 10 people indicted after the scheme was uncovered in 2015, one case is still pending. Curtsinger did not give a statement before being sentenced in Franklin County Circuit Court in Frankfort. The one-time Buffalo Trace distillery employee pleaded guilty last year to charges that included theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Prosecutor Zachary Becker said Friday that the length of the prison sentence was “commensurate and appropriate” when considering Curtsinger’s “level of involvement.” “Even though to some people it just might involve some brown liquor, … it is part of our heritage,” Becker said in an interview. “So it’s something that many of us take very seriously.”
The thefts included bourbon taken from the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries.

Curtsinger, who worked on the Buffalo Trace loading docks, distributed the whiskey through a syndicate that included members of his recreational softball team, authorities said. Curtsinger loaded whiskey barrels into a pickup truck, covered them with a tarp and hauled them to potential buyers while wearing a Buffalo Trace shirt, authorities said. Armed with a search warrant, sheriff’s officer found barrels containing bourbon behind an outbuilding on the property. The barrels had been sanded and spray-painted black on the tops and bottoms in what authorities believed was an effort to remove the distiller’s marks. Once the criminal cases end, one big question still looms: what to do with the confiscated bourbon? Becker said Friday that he anticipates filing a motion later asking that the purloined spirits be disposed of “in a manner consistent with the wishes of the Van Winkle Family, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey.” He didn’t elaborate.   [Source: The Seattle Times]

Woman allegedly steals more than $3,700 in merchandise

A Racine, Wisconsin, woman is facing charges for allegedly stealing more than $3,700 worth of merchandise from Walmart over the course of two months. Marlena L. Durrah, 25, is charged with four counts of felony retail theft. According to the criminal complaint, a Mount Pleasant Police officer responded to a retail theft at Walmart. The officer reportedly recognized Durrah as the alleged thief because Durrah has reportedly been caught stealing at Walmart before. The store’s loss prevention associates provided surveillance footage of 15 incidents from January 6 to March 7 in which Durrah allegedly stole items ranging in total value from $15.62 to $500.16. On several occasions, Durrah is reportedly seen stealing Walmart bags from unattended cash registers when she walks into the store and placing items in the bags before she walks out. The total value of the items Durrah allegedly stole is at least $3,711.48, the loss prevention associates told police. Durrah made an initial court appearance Thursday when a cash bond was set at $5,000, according to online records. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 6.    [Source: The Journal Times]

Shoplifting suspects assault clerk after being confronted

Authorities say three women who assaulted a clerk after being confronted for shoplifting. The Oklahoma City Police Department has released video of three women exiting Ebony Beauty Supply. As the women exit, they can be seen being confronted by a store employee attempting to stop them from shoplifting. Police say the women assaulted the clerk and then left the business. Authorities did not immediately identify when the crime occurred. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 405.235.7300.    [Source: Fox25 News]

Community turns out for fundraiser benefiting the Dallas shooting victims

The line for food Friday never stopped at Dallas Police Department’s Northeast Substation. More than 2,500 people came to a fundraiser for DPD officer Crystal Almeida and Home Depot loss prevention associate Scott Painter, who were injured in a deadly shooting at Home Depot April 24. The fundraiser also benefited Officer Joey Arivizu, who suffered a severe head injury while training for a “Guns and Hoses” fundraiser the week before that shooting. “It was just so awesome for them to see with their own eyes the outpouring of love that the community has for them,” said DPD Deputy Chief Avery Moore. The mood was light, but the reason they were there was not lost. A banner hung over the substation entrance with a photo of Officer Rogelio Santander, who was shot and killed at Home Depot. “Our job is the serve the public,” Moore said. “But none of us sign up to get killed or seriously injured to where we can’t perform or serve our families anymore.”  The fundraiser asked for a $10 a plate donation, but Moore said many who came donated much more than that.   [Source: NBCDFW5 News]

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