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Breaking News in the Industry: May 7, 2018

Six identified in major, multi-state theft ring: Nearly $400,000 taken from Midwest stores

It’s the story of a multi-state electronics theft ring which spanned six states and left Walmart stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota with a combined loss of nearly $400,000. After at least six months of extensive investigations by countless agencies across the Midwest, the operation appears to have been brought to an end three months after the suspects made their final heist in Fergus Falls. Now, with six individuals being identified, local law enforcement are pulling the wraps off of the story behind the elaborate operation which resulted in $180,000 of stolen merchandise for Walmart stores in Minnesota and $40,000 taken locally.On January 24, at around 5 a.m., investigators say four people—two men and two women—can be seen on surveillance footage entering the Fergus Falls Walmart. The group worked their way back to a secured metal cage in the electronics department before they then allegedly forced open the high-dollar smartphone display and loaded roughly 48 cell phones into a plastic tub prepared inside a nearby shopping cart.The incident seems to play out without anyone noticing. Then, three of the individuals are said to have made for the building’s exit while a fourth goes just ahead of the group and attempts to leave with a large television in tow. Authorities say loss prevention associates caught that suspect as the group of three maneuvered their cart of concealed gadgets to a vehicle in the parking lot with out-of-state license plates, driving away a short time later. That statewide alert reached investigators in the Twin Cities area who had been working already to investigate similar incidents within their jurisdictions. Local officials explain that the metro agencies had undertaken the case in conjunction with Walmart corporate security investigators and other law enforcement groups in Wisconsin.

Within Minnesota alone, they identified repeated thefts in Worthington, Cottage Grove, Monticello, and Albert Lea – amongst many others. Surveillance footage appeared to show the same individuals implicated in the Fergus Falls incident, and the modus operandi was a consistent match.  During late-night or early-morning hours, the group would maneuver to the store’s electronics department before forcing open secured product storage cases and loading high-value gadgets into a plastic tub.Dollar amounts varied in the thefts, with some incidents meaning a lesser loss of little more than $1,000. Still others, however, such as $48,000 from a store in Maple Grove and $47,000 over two attempts at a store in Eau Claire meant a major financial hit. As a matter of comparison, the theft in Fergus Falls of $40,000 was not only the group’s final known heist but also the second-most costly event in Minnesota. Six people in total have been identified in connection with the spree of incidents. All six are said to be residents of the Twin Cities area. At least three of the suspects have already been charged in Wisconsin, where all of that state’s criminal complaints were handled in the city of Eau Claire. Likewise, incidents in Minnesota will be aggregated together in Fergus Falls and heard by Otter Tail County judges. Officials say those charges have yet to be filed, as the final reports are anticipated to be completed within the next few weeks. As for the merchandise itself, police say the smartphones, tablets, and other valuable products have yet to be recovered, and it is currently unknown what might have become of the stolen goods. Law enforcement records show that the pattern of thefts began in Minnesota in late June of 2017. [Source: The Daily Journal]

Suspect arrested for stealing over $4,500 in baby formula

A 30-year-old man was arrested Friday for stealing over a hundred cans of baby formula from Safeway stores, Petaluma, California, police reported. Police were dispatched to a Safeway on 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway at 5:38 p.m. to reports of a “habitual shoplifter” loading an empty stroller with baby formula, police said. Police contacted the man as he was about to drive away from the store. He initially provided false identification to officers, police said, but they later identified him as Jerry Young of Tracy.

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Young’s record showed that he had two outstanding warrants for theft and burglary. Police searched his vehicle and found 96 cans of baby formula valued at a total of $4,500 and a small amount of narcotics. Police said Young admitted to numerous recent thefts of baby formula in Northern California over the past three months and two thefts of 40 cans of baby formula from Petaluma Safeway stores in the past week. Young was arrested for burglary, impersonating another, possession of stolen property, possession of a narcotic and the two warrants. He was booked in Sonoma County Jail.   [Source: NBC Bay Area]

Woman who went on shopping spree with stolen credit cards extradited on similar charges

A Houston woman accused of going on a high-dollar spending spree with stolen credit cards has been extradited to Florida on similar charges. 

According to Harris County Precinct 5, Jessica Wakefield, 25, was wanted in Florida on 15 counts of fraud, larceny and theft related to a trip in March.

Tampa police reported that Wakefield and her sister, Jennifer Gamble, 22, stole credit cards and used them to fund a family vacation for themselves and 13 family members to Tampa and Orlando, paying for luxurious shopping trips and a trip to SeaWorld.

Police say Wakefield and Gamble went into office buildings in Florida and stole purses and wallets.

Gamble was charged with four felony crimes and a misdemeanor for her role in the Florida crimes. Wakefield is also accused of stealing a credit card from a 68-year-old woman in February and spending more than $8,500 at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s at The Galleria. 

She was arrested on April 26 and extradited to Florida on May 2.

Wakefield is facing third-degree felony charges of credit card abuse and fraud of an elderly individual. [Source: ABC13 Eyewitness News]

Accused wig snatcher caught on camera [Viral Video]

Nancy “Mia” Haddad Adams and her husband Johnny told KVUE they’ve seen their share of theft at their beauty supply store in Round Rock, Texas, over the years, but nothing could compare to what their surveillance cameras captured Thursday afternoon. A woman was caught stealing not one, not two, but three wigs off the heads of mannequins at Round Rock Beauty Supply. “We’ve had theft in the past where people come in and they’ve stolen, came back, and paid for it, and they’re regular customers again. And I allow them to come back, but nothing like this,” Nancy said. She was working the counter Thursday afternoon when the accused wig snatcher took a stroll straight to the back of the store. “I’ve seen her before, but didn’t really recognize who she was. I said, ‘Hi, how are you? Let me know if you need any help,'” Nancy recalled. But before she knew it, the woman, who was wearing a neon safety vest, walked out with three wigs in tow. “A minute passed, I go to the back and one of my girls is bald-headed. The thing is, she didn’t know, and some people don’t know, that we know all these wigs — by name,” Nancy said.

“These are our girls. We work with them all day long. If we come back and Shivone has hair and five minutes later and we come back and Shivone is gone, we know. We know these things.” Nancy watched the surveillance footage, knowing multiple cameras in her store captured what happened. “The cameras have always been here,” her husband Johnny said. “We want people to understand that they do work, and we use them constantly.” Despite the woman being caught in the act, Nancy said she doesn’t want the woman in the video to go to jail — under one condition. “I would like her to come and pay for it. Pay for all three of those wigs,” she said. “I won’t press charges if she comes back and pays for it, but I don’t want her business again.” Nancy told KVUE she filed a police report with Round Rock PD.  [Source: KVUE ABC News]

Off-duty police officer thwarts shoplifting

Wareham Police in Massachusetts report that on Friday at about 10 AM, they responded to the Walmart store for a report of a shoplifting in progress, with the caller reporting a male subject was pushing a cart out of the store with a stolen television. Upon arrival of Officers Zina Kelsch and Jon Verhaegen, they determined that the male suspect had the Walmart parking lot and was now at Wareham Crossing near the Lowe’s store. Furthermore, they received information that off-duty Wareham Officer Aaron Pacheco was with the suspect. Officer Pacheco was in plain clothes shopping at Lowe’s when he observed the male nervously asking customers for a ride. Officer Pacheco immediately sensed something suspicious when he saw the TV in the carriage with a Walmart clearance tag on it. In an effort to confirm the TV was stolen, Officer Pacheco told the suspect he would give him a ride, as soon as he purchased an item in Lowe’s. Continuing to covertly monitor him, Officer Pacheco contacted Walmart and confirmed the description of the suspect and TV. As he left the store, the suspect became agitated and said he had to leave right away. At that point, the other officers arrived and the suspect was placed in custody. He was identified as Scott A. Mixon, 37, of New Bedford. Mixon was brought to Wareham Police headquarters for processing and later transported to Wareham District Court for arraignment on the charge of Shoplifting (3rd offense). [Source:]

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Equifax board members keep their jobs despite data breach blunders

After a calamitous data breach exposing the personal information of more than 145 million U.S. citizens and over 700k UK residents, Equifax shareholders this week voted to re-elect all of the company’s board members following its first annual shareholder meeting since the incident. MarketWatch reports that several board members, including Chairman Mark Feidler, faced a significant, albeit futile, resistance. 64 percent of the votes were in favor of keeping Feidler, while 35.5 percent wanted him gone. A private equity firm founder, Feidler succeeded former Chairman Richard Smith, who was also the company’s CEO, last month. Smith had resigned in the wake of the 2017 breach. Mark Begor, a former General Electric executive, became CEO last month. Per MarketWatch, Feidler and two other board members re-elected this week—John McKinley and Mark Templeton—were on the company’s technology committee at the time of the breach.

Feidler said in a statement that the company still had more work to do in the wake of the breach. Begor told shareholders yesterday that Equifax was investing heavily in IT infrastructure and trying to “enhance how it interacts with customers,” according to a person who attended the shareholder meeting, per the Wall Street Journal. Since the incident last year—which was kept from the public for 40 days after discovery, and now includes allegations of insider trading on the executive level—Equifax’s name has become synonymous with corporate security negligence. The company is known for failing to stop a breach that was likely prevented easily and for failing to respond appropriately in the aftermath, a reputation that will beset the credit-reporting agency’s public image potentially for years to come.  [Source: Gizmodo]

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