California Highway Patrol program catches L.A. cargo crooks
The California Highway Patrol Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) in February arrested 15 members of a suspected theft crew in Los Angeles County following a seven-month investigation of organized commercial burglary. The total value of the stolen cargo was more than $1 million. Those arrested are alleged to have spent their days driving through industrial areas looking for merchandise, according to CTIP. At night they would return to likely spots, cutting holes into warehouse doors and loading stolen products into vans. Some businesses made the suspects’ jobs easier by leaving pallets of merchandise outside for quick pickup and delivery. The thieves targeted boxes of clothing, shoes, cosmetics and electronics and sold some of the merchandise to a Long Beach, California, couple. The CTIP said it expects to make more arrests in the case. The suspects were charged with grand theft and possession of stolen property. California formed the CTIP program in 1994. Security directors from such organizations as the Western States Cargo Theft Association, California Trucking Association and National Cargo and Security Council Transportation meet with law enforcement monthly to discuss recent trends, losses, suspects and active investigations. [Source: Transport Topics]
Casino employee arraigned in Easter promotion scheme
A former host at Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Pennsylvania accused of participating in a scheme to rig an Easter sweepstakes in 2014 was arraigned Tuesday. Kenneth Rowlands, 32, of Kingston, surrendered before District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo Jr. on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy to participate in a rigged contest. Spagnuolo arraigned Rowlands at Luzerne County Central Court and released him on $15,000 unsecured bail. Rowlands was accompanied by his attorney, Peter Moses. Authorities allege Rowlands was in on the scheme that involved two other casino employees — Robert Joseph Pellegrini, 52, a former vice president of player development, and Colin Ray Boecker, 32 — plus casino patron Mark Heltzel. According to criminal complaints: Boecker set up the Easter sweepstakes, which offered patrons the opportunity to select plastic eggs that contained cash prizes and free slot credits. Rowlands had to make sure Heltzel was made aware that a certain egg contained the grand prize of $10,000, which he picked on April 27, 2014. Heltzel then gave some of the cash to Pellegrini, Boecker and Rowlands. Boecker, of Tonawanda, New York, and Pellegrini are facing similar charges. They have not been arraigned.Heltzel, 53, of Dallas, has not been charged in this case, but pleaded guilty in another. The alleged contest rigging happened before Pellegrini was involved another scheme with Heltzel and former casino waitress Rochelle Poszeluznyj, 40, of Kingston. Pellegrini, Heltzel and Poszeluznyj were charged in 2016 in the scheme that ran from May 2014 to April 2015 and involved the theft of personal identification numbers, or PINs, from gamblers. The numbers were then used to create duplicate rewards cards with $478,000 in free play credits. Heltzel gambled with the cards and split the winnings with Pellegrini and Poszeluznyj who stole the PINs. Heltzel was sentenced last August to 18 months in federal prison. Poszeluznyj was sentenced to six months on house arrest and two years on probation.[Source: Times Leader]
Toys ‘R’ Us will sell or close all US stores, according to CEO
Toys “R” Us is set to file liquidation papers Wednesday (March 14) evening in advance of a bankruptcy court hearing on Thursday, reported The Record. Toys “R” Us CEO David Brandon spoke about the company’s fate to employees in a conference call, calling it a sad day, according to the report. He also said the brand would be missed. However, the decision to liquidate might not sink the retailer totally. CNBC reported that the toy giant is eyeing one plan that would keep some stores open ever after it liquidates the company. Under the proposal, the company would sell its stronger Toys “R” Us Canadian division, along with some 200 of its most profitable US stores, to a new buyer. Although there is no definite buyer yet, there are several circulating, according to CNBC. Toys “R” Us, which filed for bankruptcy in September, currently has more than 700 remaining US locations, between its namesake and Babies “R” Us banners. In related developments, the U.K. arm of Toys “R” Us on Wednesday announced it will be closing its store base within six weeks. [Source: Chain Store Age]
Man robs JCPenney store, threatens LP associate with knife
Police in San Antonio, Texas, arrested a 33-year-old man after he allegedly robbed a JCPenney and threatened a loss prevention associate with a knife. Investigators say Roland Pena was caught on camera stuffing a pair of jeans inside a shopping bag at South Park Mall on SW Military Drive around 1 p.m. on February 22nd and then putting on a new pair of shoes before walking toward the elevator. A police affidavit states Pena was confronted by a loss prevention associate, who said Pena took off the shoes but kept the jeans in the bag. Investigators say Pena pulled out a knife as he walked toward the store exit and told the LP associate to stop following him. Pena has been charged with aggravated robbery. [Source: News4SA]
Retail jobs increased by over 46,000 in February
Retail industry employment increased by 46,400 jobs in February over January, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said today. The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the economy added 313,000 jobs, the Labor Department said. “This substantial gain in retail jobs is a significant positive sign regarding the health and viability of the industry,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “It is stronger than expected and there were broad gains across most retail sectors. Beyond retail, labor markets continued to strengthen in all industries in February, and more jobs throughout the economy will mean more consumers shopping in retail stores. With tax reform in effect, consumer confidence increasing and strong underlying economic fundamentals, 2018 is off to a good start and we expect a prosperous year ahead.”The February increase was more than four times the gain of 10,800 jobs seen in January over December. The three-month moving average in February showed an increase of 10,600 jobs.
General merchandise stores were up by 17,700 jobs, fueled mostly by gains at warehouse and supercenter stores, while clothing and accessories stores were up by 14,900 jobs and building materials stores were up by 10,300 jobs. There were declines totaling 5,400 jobs spread across health and personal care, sporting goods and miscellaneous stores. Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not provide an accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excludng retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs. Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in February increased by 68 cents – 2.6 percent – year over year. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, unchanged for the fifth straight month. [Source: Business Wire]
ATM debit card fraud hit 10 percent in 2017
A new report has revealed that there was a 10 percent increase in the number of payment cards compromised at US ATMs and merchants in 2017. “The number of compromises and the number of card members impacted set a new record last year,” said TJ Horan, vice president of fraud solutions at FICO. “While most devices are safe, fraudsters are developing new technology and methods for hacking ATMs. This is why it’s important for consumers to be cautious when withdrawing cash, and also for them to check their account regularly and confirm that all the transactions on their debit card are legitimate.”The data – which is taken from the FICO Card Alert Service that monitors hundreds of thousands of ATMs and other readers in the US – also showed that compromised card readers at US ATMs, restaurants and merchants went up 8 percent in 2017.
ATM hacks have proven to be a real concern for consumers and financial institutions. Earlier this year, Diebold Nixdorf and NCR Corporation – the two biggest ATM makers in the world – warned that hackers are going after ATM machines in the US with tools that can force the machines to spit out cash. A confidential alert was sent to banks from the U.S. Secret Service that hackers are targeting standalone ATMs that are usually found in drug stores, big-box retailers and drive-thru ATMs. And while financial institutions are launching cardless ATM transactions in which customers can use their mobile phones to withdraw money, Krebs on Security found that feature can be hacked, with criminals using stolen bank account usernames and passwords to quietly take cash out of ATMs. In its report, FICO offered tips to keep payment card info safe, including staying away from an ATM that looks odd, or where your card doesn’t enter the machine smoothly; avoiding an ATM if anyone is hanging around nearby; calling your bank immediately if your card is captured inside of an ATM; requesting a new card number if you believe your card has been compromised; and checking your transactions frequently. [Source: PYMNTS]