Pawn-Store busted fencing $6M
For nearly a decade, a secondhand store owner in the Hill resold $6 million in stolen items brought to him by opioid users, sweating and sick from withdrawal. Now, he’ll spend the next six years of his life in federal prison. In a Hartford, Connecticut, courtroom on Monday afternoon, US District Court Judge Michael P. Shea gave George Connelly, Jr., the owner of Ace Amusements, a 78-month sentence for transporting stolen property across state lines. Connelly must also forfeit an $86,200 interest in a house he owns on Tuttle Drive, $10,300 in cash that was seized from his bank accounts, and $13,100 in cash seized from Ace Amusements in January 2016. That will pay nominal restitution of $4,045 to Lowe’s, $2,548 to Home Depot, and $1,700 to Target.
Through the Kimberly Avenue shop that he inherited from his father, who’d run a similar scheme in the early 1990s, Connelly acted as the “fence,” buying then reselling stolen goods. According to the evidence presented at a trial this spring, shoplifters suffering from the aches and nausea of withdrawal stole property from Home Depot, Target, CVS and Lowe’s, and sold it to Connelly’s store for one-third of the retail value. Connelly stocked his shelves with the in-the-box items and put the rest for sale online. From 2007 to 2016, the stolen items amounted to at least $6.03 million, the evidence at trial showed.
After six days of testimony, including from some of the shoplifters, a jury found Connelly guilty of two counts of interstate transport of stolen property and one count of conspiracy of interstate transport of stolen property. They let him off on one additional count. Prosecutors called it “one of the largest organized retail crime operations in the New Haven area.” Connelly “exploited the sickness of people who suffered from opioid addiction for his own gain,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Pierpont, Jr., wrote in a memo. Judge Shea ultimately decided to go just under prosecutors’ recommendation of a seven-year minimum. Currently out on bond, after his sister put up her house to raise the $100,000, Connelly has been ordered to report to prison on Dec. 3, 2018. One of the resellers, who was found guilty at trial, will be sentenced Tuesday, and the shop’s co-owner, who took a guilty plea, will be sentenced next month. [Source: New Haven Independent]
Police allege man swipes more than $2,800 in baby formula
A Philadelphia man is facing shoplifting charges after store loss prevention allegedly spotted him stealing 11 backpacks full of baby formula over a roughly three-week span. Bethlehem Township police charged Anthony Fuentes-Rodriguez with a single misdemeanor count of retail theft in connection with the alleged string of thefts from the Walmart off Route 191. District Judge Jacqueline Taschner arraigned the 31-year-old Saturday morning, setting bail at $15,000.
Walmart LP reported to police that a man later identified as Fuentes-Rodriguez entered the store 11 times between July 31 and Aug. 20, according to court records. Each time in the store, he allegedly grabbed a backpack from a shelf, headed to the baby formula aisle and filled the backpack with cans of formula, according to records. He allegedly walked out of the store with $2,887 worth of formula. Loss prevention associates spotted Fuentes-Rodriguez walking into the Walmart on Aug. 20 and called township police.
When officers arrived, he ran from police, eluding capture. Fuentes-Rodriguez, however, abandoned his car in the parking lot, and paperwork inside linked the vehicle to him. Police said they matched a PennDOT of Fuentes-Rodriguez to the Walmart security footage. Fuentes-Rodriguez failed to post bail and was sent to Northampton County Prison after his arraignment to await a preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 12. [Source: WFMZ69 News]
Retail stocks take a tumble after Amazon’s minimum wage hike announcement
Retail stocks including Nordstrom (down 2.1%), Kohl’s (down 3%), Gap (down 3.3%), and Macy’s (down 2.3%) have fallen in Tuesday trading after Amazon.com announced it was raising its minimum wage to $15 and advocating for a broader rise in the minimum wage to that level.
Retailers, already feeling the pressure to attract and retain quality workers, could soon be feeling the tighter squeeze from larger, more competitive paychecks. “Amazon gets something of a free pass on profit levels from investors, so is able to manage market expectations,” wrote GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders in a note.
“The same cannot be said for other retailers, many of which are under increasing economic pressure to increase wages and benefits. In our view, those moves could well impact earnings into the new year.” The SPDR S&P Retail ETF, which is down 1.7% in Tuesday trading, has gained 8.3% for the year so far. The Amplify Online Retail ETF down 3% in Tuesday trading, has gained 22.4% for 2018 to date. The S&P 500 index is up 9.4% for the year to date. [Source: Market Watch]
Second suspect arrested in rash of armed robberies
Providence, Rhode Island, police have made two arrests after a string of armed robberies in the city over the past two weeks. Investigators pulled out all the stops to catch the suspects including creating a task force dedicated to it. The robberies started on September 18th and took place mostly in the West End and Silver Lake parts of the city. Providence police say that 24-year-old Kpormen Johnson and 21-year-old Klimo Kotoe are responsible for ten armed robberies in the city. “We decided that we needed to form a task force that was directly targeting these armed robberies,” said Major David Lapatin of the Providence Police Department.
“We identified the geographic location where the suspects were operating and we also identified potential targets,” explained Det. Lt. Henry Remolina who was put in charge of the task force. “We started to cover as many potential targets as possible.” The suspects hit three different Walgreens, three Family Dollar stores, a 7-11, a Domino’s and a CVS. On Monday night, October 1st, the task force was staking out this Family Dollar at 1030 Chalkstone Avenue when they say Kotoe walk in with a gun and a mask to rob the store. Detective Ryan Moroney was the officer assigned to the store when it happened. He gave chase on foot until Kotoe allegedly jumped into a car driven by Johnson. Another chase ensued. Johnson was eventually apprehended while Kotoe got away but through evidence collected, police executed a search warrant at his home Tuesday and arrested him. Kotoe has been charged with ten armed robberies, while Johnson was formally charged with two, though more charges are possible. Both men have been ordered held without bail. [Source: Turn To Ten]
Woman charged in carjacking also accused in burglary at same store
A woman accused of hitting a victim in the head with a bag of rocks during a carjacking at a local Walmart has now been charged for stealing a 50 inch TV from the same store just four days after the carjacking. Courtney Knight, 30, has been charged with grand theft and burglary. According to probable cause documents, officers were dispatched to the Walmart Supercenter about a delayed theft on Sept. 26. A loss prevention associate told the officer the he was reviewing surveillance videos from Sept. 21 and noticed that around 5:10 p.m., he saw a woman going into Walmart with an empty shopping cart. However, the woman soon got a 50 inch flat screen TV valued at $398 loaded into her cart and immediately walked to the grocery side of the store. Documents say the woman then approached the back storage room, which is for employees only.
The suspect left the shopping cart, walked into the backroom, then came back out onto the sales room to grab the cart and bring it into the backroom. While in the back, the loss prevention associate said he saw a sales associate back there as well. According to court documents, the employee confronted the woman, who said that she was “looking for cheese.” She then walked back out of the room, returned a short time later.
Documents say the employee saw the woman running through the backroom to the emergency exit door, where he heard it slam. When the employee opened the emergency door, he saw a Toyota Camry with a Georgia tag right outside the door. The woman and an unknown man loaded the TV into the car and left the area. The loss prevention associate who reported the theft told officers that he was contacted about the carjacking on Sept. 17 and was able to identify the suspect in the carjacking, Knight, as the same woman involved in the theft from the same store a few days later. After reviewing the evidence, officers found probable cause to charge Knight with the theft. She was already in jail for armed carjacking and aggravated battery charges. Knight is being held on a $5,000 bond for the additional charges. [Source: WTXL27 News]
Many retailers to close Thanksgiving Day
Americans may still be debating costumes for Halloween, but Thanksgiving is already on the calendar as a day off from work for employees at brick-and-mortar stores of at least 60 retailers, according to a list compiled by BestBlackFriday.com. Many retailers have opted to stay closed on Thanksgiving as foot traffic slowly declined and online sales took off. Costco, Home Depot, Ikea and Sam’s Club are among the big-name retailers that plan to take off Nov. 22, according to the third annual compilation by BestBlackFriday.com.
But the day after Thanksgiving — known as Black Friday because it’s seen as the day retailers achieve profitability, or get “in the black” — is a different story. Market research firm ShopperTrack estimates this year’s Black Friday will be the largest shopping day of 2018. The National Retail Federation estimated that 174 million people shopped in stores and online during last year’s five-day Thanksgiving weekend, which ends with Cyber Monday.
In 2017, 57 percent of those surveyed by BestBlackFriday.com opposed Thanksgiving Day store openings, while just 16 percent favored them. However, the site’s latest poll found nearly a quarter of the 1,069 people surveyed said they favor holiday openings, up nearly 9 percentage points from last year. Here’s BestBlackFriday’s official Thanksgiving Day closure list, which the website said it would add to as more stores confirm their plans for the holiday shopping weekend: [Source: WTXL27 News]