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Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: February 2024

Organized retail crime remains a serious problem for retailers across the country and around the world. Every day, there are countless stories about criminal enterprises victimizing stores, threatening the safety of customers and employees, and the very fabric of the retail industry. To give you a better feel for the vast impact of the problem, we have provided a glimpse into just a few of the incidents that took place in the month of February.

Charges Against California ORC Ringleader for Scheme Spanning 21 Counties and Nearly $8 Million in Losses
California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced charges against the ringleader of an organized retail crime scheme that spanned 21 counties and involved an estimated $8 million worth of beauty products, as well as multiple members of her organized retail crime ring. The investigation was conducted by the California Department of Justice (DOJ), California Highway Patrol (CHP), Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection Service along with Ulta’s Loss Prevention Organized Retail Crime team and Sephora Representatives. It is alleged that the ringleader of the scheme paid more than 7 people to steal from Ulta Beauty stores, as well as other retail outlets. The ringleader would then sell the stolen cosmetic items on her Amazon storefront.

Couple pleads guilty to stealing $2.1 million in merchandise
A Chicago couple has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $2 million worth of merchandise from a Carol Stream (Illinois) retail distribution company. They must pay more than $2.1 million in restitution to 14 merchants, including $1.1 million to Victoria’s Secret, $241,000 to Michael Kors, $309,000 to Foot Locker/Champs and $293,613 to Express. The suspect’s job was moving delivery trucks from the loading dock to the front of the warehouse, where drivers would take the trucks to stores. But he would stop in the parking lot and unload merchandise into his vehicle before bringing the truck to its driver, authorities said.

Los Angeles DA announces 200 organized retail theft cases were filed in 2023
District Attorney George Gascón announced that “approximately 200” organized retail theft cases involving adult and juvenile defendants have been filed by the office. These cases were filed through the efforts of the organized retail task forces, which are composed of regional law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s Office partnering together to prosecute these crimes. As of January 29, 2024, the task force has 33 active cases and has assumed investigative responsibility for 263 crime reports throughout the region involving organized retail crimes in multiple jurisdictions.

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$5M merchandise recovered from stolen cargo trailers
An investigation into a cargo load of flat screen televisions stolen from a trailer in Los Angeles County earlier this week led to the discovery of approximately $5 million worth of other retail merchandise taken by thieves. During the course of their investigation, authorities recovered a stolen trailer with an estimated $70,000 worth of the flat screen televisions. Detectives also located several other trailers that had been reported stolen. Those cargo trailers contained Home Theater Systems, Grass Fertilizer, Computer Chips, Baking Soda, Cat Litter, Navy recruit training shorts, Coconut Water, energy drinks, and hand wipes. In total, authorities said the stolen merchandise was worth approximately $5 million.

Over $1.5 million in stolen goods found in Riverside County bust
Authorities discovered millions of dollars in stolen goods during a massive Riverside County bust. The bust was the result of a multi-state operation investigating a crime ring involved in organized retail crime and trailer cargo theft. While searching the property, authorities discovered over 200 pallets of stolen merchandise inside a warehouse storage area. Some of the items include flat-screen televisions, coffee makers, vacuums, baby carriers, highchairs, and more. A stolen semi-truck and trailer were found as well and believed to be used in the thefts. The total value of the stolen goods is estimated at over $1.5 million.

Police arrest two men accused of taking part in gift card scam
Police announced they have arrested two New York men involved in an alleged gift card scam. The scam, also known as “gift card draining,” is a known method across the U.S. Once the card is activated by a purchase, police said the value is drained by the scammers. Following a search warrant on the vehicle, they seized three boxes containing 1,848 suspected tampered gift cards and another 935 gift cards from the CVS that they believed to have been altered. If the recovered tampered gift cards were returned into circulation, the potential total fraud amount from these two individuals could have been just under $1 million.

Maryland Couple Charged in ORC Investigation
A Maryland couple have each been charged with grand larceny and larceny with the intent to sell stemming from a shoplifting incident. Officers with the Leesburg Police Department were dispatched to Ulta for a report of a shoplifting where a male and a female entered the business and stole merchandise valued at more than $6,400. Through an investigation, the suspects were each subsequently charged for their involvement. It is estimated that the couple is responsible for the organized retail theft of more than $158,000 from multiple retail stores located in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. Ulta Loss Prevention, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Prince George’s County Police Department (MD), and the Buena Park Police Department (CA) all assisted in identifying and locating the suspects.

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Member of ORC Ring Pleads Guilty to Enterprise Corruption Charge
An ORC suspect in the Buffalo market admitted to being a member of a local organized retail theft ring, participating in a pattern of criminal activity by overseeing the operation of an ORC group and employing other individuals to steal items from various retailers throughout Erie County in exchange for financial compensation. The suspect, who acted in concert with other individuals, sold the stolen merchandise for a profit. The group is believed to be responsible for numerous thefts countywide with an estimated total loss of approximately $70,000.

Task force arrests suspect connected to flash mob robbery at Nordstrom
A task force dedicated to fighting organized retail crime has tracked down one of the many suspects that hit a Nordstrom during a flash mob robbery last year. The task force, which consists of officers from all over Los Angeles County, arrested the suspect, finding an unregistered handgun, an extended magazine, ammunition and about $4,500 while searching the area. The flash mob robbery happened on Aug. 12, 2023, when at least 20 suspects flooded into the Westfield Topanga Shopping Center department store in Canoga Park. The crowd ravaged Nordstrom and took anything they could get their hands on, including clothing purses and even full displays, as customers and employees watched in astonishment. The minutes of havoc resulted in losses of about $300,000.

Police arrest multiple suspects allegedly involved in smash-and-grab robberies
Police investigating the smash-and-grab robbery in the Lansing Mall believe the suspects arrested are involved in multiple robberies across Michigan and Ohio. Following a smash-and-grab robbery at the Helzberg Diamonds in Great Lakes Crossing Mall in Auburn Hills, investigators said the suspects entered the store, smashed out cases and stole several thousand dollars’ worth of jewelry. Similar incidents occurred at a Kay Jewelers in the Lansing Mall and the Sparkles Jewelry store in Lakeside Mall. All six suspects were sent to Macomb County Jail. Police said about $170,000 worth of stolen jewelry was recovered.

Wisconsin man arrested for allegedly stealing over $90K in calculators from Target stores
A Wisconsin man has been arrested after allegedly stealing more than $90K worth of calculators from Target stores across Indiana and several other states. The suspect was arrested and charged with several felonies after police discovered 26 graphing calculators, a large amount of unused Target bags, a stack of cards with Target aisle numbers listed, and a receipt from a Target in West Milwaukee in the back of his car. While officers were detaining the suspect, they reported finding a magnetic device often used in retail thefts inside his pants pocket, but that was just the beginning. Officers later spoke with Target’s asset protection program, who said he was the suspect in multiple thefts from Georgia to Indiana. According to Target’s records, he is suspected of stealing $90,000 worth of calculators from Target stores across the United States.

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Police recover over $200K in items stolen from local stores
A man is facing a long list of charges after police say they recovered $214,000 worth of stolen goods, including hundreds of items from Canadian Tire, Peavy Mart, Walmart, the Trading Post and Sal Dan Development. The stash of stolen goods included 50 catalytic converters worth approximately $100,000, as well as high-priced construction equipment, police allege. Officers also seized 10 firearms, $3,000 worth of suspected cocaine, $43,000 in Canadian and U.S. currency and a 2021 black Dodge Ram pickup truck, police say. The investigation, which began in January, was “related to pre-arranged drug transactions and stolen property in the City of Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding communities.”

Mount Pleasant retail theft; $48K value of stolen property
Two people were arrested in Mount Pleasant for retail theft with an estimated value of nearly $50,000 in stolen property. Police said there were 162 pairs of athletic shoes, 41 designer bags, 13 Adidas tracksuits, nine luggage sets and 332 bottles of cologne and perfume. The estimated retail value of the stolen property is $48,000. Police said both parties are suspects in thefts throughout Wisconsin and other states.

Trio accused of $100k organized retail theft at Home Depots in 11 Florida counties
Three men in Florida are accused of operating an organized retail theft ring in 11 counties and stealing more than $100,000 from Home Depot stores. The attorney general’s office said for three years, the group stole 281 buckets of Henry 887 Tropi-Cool roof sealers in more than 25 Home Depot theft incidents. They’d allegedly team up to switch barcodes on the roof sealers that cost $248-$445, and replace them with a pre-mixed floor patch costing $9.98 at the self-checkout line.

Women accused of stealing over $100K in products from 20 Target stores in Georgia, other states
A jury indicted two women on charges of running a theft ring across metro Atlanta and other states. For over 47 days, authorities say the suspects targeted Target stores, stealing thousands of dollars of primarily makeup. They would conceal items within a large box or tote bag and would get accomplices, sometimes enlisting kids, to act as lookouts. They stole thousands from Targets in Dunwoody, Marietta, Canton, Acworth, Alpharetta, Roswell, and Woodstock, but also took their operation to other states, stealing from stores in Texas, Alabama, and North Carolina. The total retail value of their thefts was $103,000.

Orlando duo accused of stealing over $22,000 worth of cosmetic products
A duo from Orlando was arrested in Port Orange last week after they were caught filling up trash bags with dozens of facial care and cosmetic products worth over $2,000 and leaving the store, according to police. When police searched their van, they found several more large trash bags filled with similar items totaling over $20,000.00, and were believed to have been recently stolen from other area retail stores, police said. The stolen items were lipstick, foundation, concealer, mascara, moisturizer, eye cream, serum and face wash, among others.

Police Arrest Nine Men in Connection with $50K Worth of Stolen Nike Products
Police in Memphis, Tenn. have arrested nine men in connection with the large-scale theft of Nike products from a train boxcar. According to court documents, Memphis police obtained an anonymous tip that cases of Nike product stolen from a nearby rail yard were being held in a local residence. An officer that arrived at the residence witnessed several men carrying what looked like large Nike boxes from the residence to a car. Police arrested nine men in connection with the theft, and found about 35 cases of Nike shoes inside one of the cars and three standalone Nike shoe boxes in another car. Police found about 30 more cases of Nike shoes when they searched the residence.

Your input and support can help send a critical message. If you have an ORC case that you would like to submit for the monthly round-up, please forward an email to us at editor@losspreventionmedia.com.

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