Breaking News in the Industry: July 5, 2018

Couple arrested in $280K retail fraud scheme

A South Florida couple spent years ripping off Home Depot in a fraud scheme that bilked the hardware retailer out of more than $280,000, authorities said. Alfredo Pita-Hernandez, 34, and Stefany Hernandez, 22, were arrested Monday on organized fraud and grand theft charges in the fraudulent refund scheme that dates back to 2014, according to an arrest report. Stefany Hernandez was even able to get a job as a cashier at a Home Depot in Miramar to “further facilitate their scheme,” the report said.

The investigation into the North Miami couple began in February and revealed that the couple was stealing merchandise and returning most of it in exchange for Home Depot gift cards, the report said. The pair would hand a cashier items one by one to keep the cashier occupied while they either concealed or under-scanned a lesser value item, the report said. They would pay for their purchases with gift cards but later return most of the items for more gift cards, the report said.

Home Depot loss prevention investigators watched Pita-Hernandez conduct multiple fraud transactions at several area stores, and even saw him using some of the stolen merchandise to remodel their home, the report said. After Stefany Hernandez got a job as a cashier, she would check out Pita-Hernandez without scanning multiple items, the report said. She also gave him duplicate receipts to help him return items and provided him with a tax-exempt number so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on any items, the report said. When Pita-Hernandez was arrested he had seven Home Depot gift cards in his pockets with a total value of $5,255, the report said.    [Source: NBC6 Miami]

Eleven-year-old arrested in connection with store break-in

St. Louis police arrested an 11-year-old in connection with a break-in and theft from a store. Officers responded to an alarm when someone broke into Tinkers Liquor & More located at 812 E Chestnut St on June 27 around 9:00 p.m. Desloge Police Chief James Bullock said the drive-thru window was broken and there was blood located in the area. Bullock also said there were a number of fingerprints, which the police lifted.

The only thing that appeared to be missing from the store was a can of wintergreen chewing tobacco. Images from the video surveillance were used to identify the suspect after the owner posted it on Facebook, police said. Bullock said the suspect was identified as an 11-year-old boy who had been in trouble at his school. The boy was taken into juvenile custody, Bullock said. The name of the suspect will not be shared due to him being a minor.   [Source: KMOV4 News]

Store clerk accused of swiping lottery ticket that later won $25,000

A Portage, Wisconsin, store clerk was charged with misdemeanor theft Tuesday, accused of stealing nine lottery tickets, including one that proved to be worth $25,000. Jessica Surratt, 30, appeared in Columbia County Circuit Court via video from Columbia County Jail, charged with one count of misdemeanor theft, valued at under $500.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Ellen Karst requested Surratt be held on cash bond, noting the Portage Police Department was contacted on the evening of June 21, but Surratt was not in custody until she was picked up on a parole violation eight days later. Judge Todd Hepler agreed and ordered her held on $400 cash bond.

“This is a case that given Ms. Surratt’s lack of a stable address, as well as pending cases, persuades the court that there is some risk of flight,” Hepler said.
The Portage Police Department was called about the incident June 21, when a convenience store manager informed investigators that Surratt had worked the previous Saturday night and Sunday morning, then called in sick for the following days. On that morning, the manager said, a representative from the Wisconsin State Lottery arrived at the store and said a $25,000 winning ticket had been sold there.   [Source: Portage Daily Register]

Police Chief fired after shoplifting arrest

Howe, Arkansas, Police Chief John Edward Doyle, Jr. was terminated from his position Monday (July 2), according to Mayor Phyllis Fields. Doyle was arrested in June on misdemeanor shoplifting charges after he switched a price tag from an item marked at $29.88 with a $5.97 price tag at Walmart, according to the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office. The security guard at the store said he made the purchase and left the store. According to the sheriff’s office, he admitted to making the fraudulent charges. He was suspended from his position at the time of the arrest. Josh Stallings will be sworn in as the new Howe police chief on July 4 at City Hall.   [Source: 5News Online]

Police hunt for 6 suspects in break-in

Police in Sidney, Ohio, are asking for help identifying two suspects in a breaking and entering case. Police say on Sunday, June 24 at 11:50 pm officers were called to the Cashland store in the 2000 block of W. Michigan Street. When officers arrived they found the front glass had been shattered and several items had been stolen. Surveillance video from the store showed two suspects looking into the windows of the store just before the break-in and six suspects later carrying items out of the store. Police ask if anyone recognized the people in their website photos please call the Sidney Police Department at 937.498.2351. Investigators say callers may remain anonymous.   [Source: WDTN2 News]

This is the most hated retail store chain in America

We all have our favorite go-to stores, where we know we can find items we love at a price we’re comfortable with—and then there are the retailers we avoid. A recent Harris Poll survey looked at 100 of America’s biggest companies to find out which ones were the most loved and which get a bad rap. About 25,800 U.S. adults rated companies based on the factors such as product quality and social consciousness, which Harris Poll translated into an overall reputation rank. Based on the findings, one thing is clear: People aren’t crazy about Sears.

Sears Holdings Corporation, which owns Sears and Kmart, earned a 64.09 out of 100, giving it the lowest grade of any other retail company in the poll—even lower than McDonald’s (72.39) and Walmart (68.52), which weren’t even in the bottom five. And this was no one-off Sears smearing. The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s 2017 retail report ranked Sears as the second most hated department or discount store, just ahead of Walmart.

Apparently, reputation speaks wonders too: The company has closed about 2,500 Sears and Kmart stores over the past decade as it’s struggled to compete with online competitors and department stores with better reputations. The Harris Poll also revealed that shoppers aren’t excited to buy from Sprint Corporation or Chipotle, which have the second and third worst retail reputations, respectively. But for every hated store, there are ones with glowing reputations. Amazon.com was the most beloved retail chain in the survey, with a score of 83.22, followed by Wegmans (82.75) and Chick-fil-A (81.68).   [Source: Reader’s digest]

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