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Breaking News in the Industry: May 31, 2018

Eight arrested in 2-year undercover investigation into major shoplifting ring

A massive shoplifting ring that sold more than $300,000 of goods stolen from major retailers in Jacksonville, Florida,  and as far away as Tallahassee and St. Mary’s, Georgia has been busted after a two-year local and state investigation, Sheriff Mike Williams announced Tuesday. Under arrest in what’s called “Operation Loot and Scoot” are Antoun Arbaji, Dantavia Berry, Deedra Berry, Brian Harris, Latoya Shurman, Natasha Soukseunchay and Jennifer Upton, all facing multiple charges of racketeering as well as grand theft, the sheriff said. Suspect Chiquita Moorehead was also arrested on grand-theft charges in the case, for a total 148 felony charges among the eight.

According to the investigation, the shoplifting ring used two tricks: fill empty suitcases with merchandise or purchase an item but swap out several items into its box before going to the cashier. “They would typically empty out a sizable box, one that would contain maybe a child seat or diapers,” he said. “Then they would fill the boxes with stolen merchandise, then simply pay for the boxed item labeled on the outside. Or they would just walk out of the store without paying anything.” Two undercover Jacksonville officers began investigating shoplifting incidents in late 2016 after stores such as Publix, Target, Walmart and Winn-Dixie alerted the Sheriff’s Office to coordinated shoplifting of office as well as health and beauty supplies, Williams said. Razors, print cartridges and nicotine gum were among the stolen items.

The investigation soon included others and Florida’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. In total, the shoplifting ring was charged in more than 100 incidents in Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. If approached by store management, the suspects would flee without the stolen goods, police said. Arbaji, who alone faces 79 charges including 54 counts of grand theft, was deemed the person in charge of two large teams of female shoplifters that included his girlfriend, police said. A May 3 Sheriff’s Office raid on Arbaji’s home, with state investigators and federal immigration agents, resulted in seizure of $53,000 in stolen items and $11,400 in cash. “He would recruit shoplifters to steal specific items and pay them anywhere from $10 an item or 20 percent of what they brought in,” Williams said. “Arbaji would sell the items on multiple internet sites he maintained.” The items sold online netted more than $300,000 in profit, Williams said. As the investigation continues, Williams said 300 more incidents are being looked into as possibly connected with the shoplifting team. Six of the suspects have lengthy criminal histories, making them eligible for prosecution as habitual offenders with the possibility of life in prison, police said.   [Source: The Florida Times-Union]

After being confronted for shoplifting, mother tells her son to pepper-spray LPA

When a woman was confronted by an Oak Creek Wisconsin, grocery store loss prevention associate about stealing a vast amount of alcohol and energy drinks, she had her child pepper-spray the associate in the face before fleeing, according to police. At 4:03 p.m. May 21, police responded to a retail theft at Pick ‘n Save, after a woman, who was accompanied by three or four juveniles, attempted to steal $590 worth of alcohol and Red Bull, according to Oak Creek Police Department records. As the suspect loaded the items into her car, an LP associate confronted her. The suspect then shouted “Get them, get them.” The suspect’s son, estimated to be 7 years old, pepper-sprayed the employee in the left eye, according to police. The suspect and the juveniles then fled in the car on South 27th Street, leaving the stolen items behind. Police are familiar with the suspect but an arrest has not been made. [Source: Journal Sentinel]

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Police arrest man who allegedly stole 7 iPhones

Police arrested a 20-year-old Elk Grove man after they say he stole seven iPhones from the Apple store in San Luis Obispo, California. On Saturday afternoon, police received a report of a theft in progress at the store. The caller told police that a man entered the store, stole a display phone and ran east on Higuera Street, according to a news release from the department. A bicycle officer saw a man matching the suspect’s description who was running east near the intersection of Marsh Street and Osos Street, police said. After a brief chase, the officer apprehended Aaron Marcuslee Searcy, police said. Authorities found seven stolen iPhones, all with security alarms ringing, in Searcy’s possession. The combined value of all the phones was more than $7,500.

The caller who reported the theft identified Searcy as the suspect, and police said they were able to confirm that from the store’s surveillance video. While police were investigating, they called Apple’s loss prevention team and discovered that Searcy was allegedly responsible for similar thefts in Nevada and California from 2017 through 2018. The total losses from those thefts were more than $90,000, according to police. Searcy was arrested and taken to the San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of burglary, receiving stolen property, resisting an officer, felony grand theft of property and misdemeanor possession of a narcotic controlled substance, according to jail records. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.    [Source: The Tribune]

Parade of burglars targets Rodeo Drive boutiques for smash and grab

A parade of four cars through Beverly Hills, California, turned onto Rodeo Drive in the early Tuesday morning darkness, pulling to a stop nose-to-tail along the curb, occupants leaping out, one with what appeared to be a sledge hammer, to commit a smash and grab burglary of an upscale shop, recorded on security camera video. As it turned out, the extra-strong security glass of the Saint Laurent display window was punctured and cracked, but failed to shatter. So the break-in crew simply shifted their focus next door to the glass entryway of Zadig & Voltaire, smashing their way in, and carrying off thousands of dollars worth of garments, then disappearing in less than two minutes. “Brazen,” said Beverly Hills Police Lt. Elisabeth Albanese in describing the most recent in a series of smash and grabs targeting the luxury boutiques of the city’s world famous retail district.

Only last week, a burglary crew smashed a glass wall at the nearby Saks Fifth Avenue department store on Wilshire Blvd.  Two months ago, a burglar driving an older BMW shattered the front window of a shop on Brighton Way. Two weeks before that, another burglar crew broke into another shop in the same 400 north block of Rodeo Drive targeted Tuesday. Three suspects in that case were arrested at the end of a pursuit, according to police statements. As it happened the week of May 28, police said one of the suspect cars was spotted in Westwood, failed to pull over, and officers gave chase. Along the way, officers recovered stolen items that were being tossed out of the Hyundai during the pursuit, according to Albanese.

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The Hyundai eventually stopped along another Rodeo… Rodeo Road in Los Angeles, near Cloverdale Avenue, with occupants jumping out and running. Police estimate there were 4-6 who got away, as did whoever were in the other three vehicles. Two of them are believed to be gray or silver BMW’s, a coupe and X5 SUV. The other suspect vehicle was described as a black Honda Civic sedan. Police requested anyone with information on the crime, the suspects, or the vehicles contact investigators at 310.285.2158. Awaiting a delivery of new security glass, the Saint Laurent shop was planning to keep security overnight.   [Source: NBC4 Los Angeles]

Suspect arrested after being found with 24 fake credit and gift cards

A Houston, Texas, man is in hot water after deputy constables said he used other people’s information to commit credit card fraud.

 The Harris County Precinct 5 Constables’ Office says Gentry Dubras De La Paz, 36, was arrested last Thursday after he was allegedly found acting suspiciously at a gas station on North Braeswood and Hillcroft.

 According to deputy constables, De La Paz allegedly was found with 24 fake credit, debit and gift cards in his possession. He is now facing several felony fraud charges. 

The constables’ office said they are now in the process of finding all the people who were ripped off by the suspect. 

A 65-year-old man in Port Lavaca has been identified as one of the victims, according to deputy constables. Constable Ted Heap said people should keep close tabs of their credit and debit card transactions, opening bills and statements promptly or by keeping up with online accounts for daily charges.

 The constable also said you should never give your account information to anyone over the phone, and should report questionable charges to your card issuer immediately.   [Source: ABC13 Eyewitness News]

Fraudster avoids prison for role in credit card scam

A Connecticut man who pleaded guilty to his role in a credit card scam that racked up almost $166,000 in debt has avoided prison time. Federal prosecutors say 29-year-old Janzayb Khan, of Waterbury, was sentenced Tuesday to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution. He pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making a false oath in a bankruptcy proceeding. Authorities say Kahn provided his personal information to a co-conspirator who used it to obtain 31 credit cards in Khan’s name from more than a dozen financial institutions. The credit applications often inflated Khan’s income in order to get larger lines of credit. The cards were then quickly maxed out, and Khan tried to declare bankruptcy, which was denied. He apologized in court.   [Source: US News]

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