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Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: January 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 January. The list has been drastically reduced here due to the sheer number of serious criminal incidents that took place this month.

Police arrest woman with bear spray accused of costing ULTA nearly half a million in robberies
Lynnwood, Washington police and the Snohomish County Violent Offender Task Force arrested a woman who allegedly terrorized Ulta Beauty stores spanning the Pacific Northwest. Investigators said the woman allegedly cost the company about half a million dollars in damages and stolen merchandise. The woman has been wanted in connection with similar crimes in Ulta stores from Oregon to Washington state and is responsible for about $450,000 worth of losses for Ulta. She often destroys some of the merchandise and the displays as well and has also brought bear spray with her as well as an intimidation tactic.

£100,000 luxury goods thief finally caught by police ‘super recogniser’ unit
Over two and a half years, a brazen thief in the United Kingdom helped himself to more than £100,000 worth of jewelry, designer clothes, posh cosmetics, and even antiques from high-end boutiques. The suspect was finally identified after officers from the Met Police’s Super Recogniser Unit spent days going through CCTV footage. The suspect stole the items from shops in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Camden. He admitted to 40 counts of theft and was jailed for nearly four years.

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Cargo Theft Interdiction Program taskforce recovers $700K in stolen vitamins
The California Highway Patrol Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) taskforce investigators are starting 2024 off right with a great recovery of 30 pallets (9,706 units) of stolen vitamins/supplements, which have an approximate value of $700,000. Great way to begin the new year after having an unbelievable 2023, where they recovered more than ever before…

Man accused of dealing in $5 million of stolen Nike goods
A man was arrested on suspicion of dealing in $5 million worth of stolen Nike merchandise, according to police. Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division Cargo Theft and the Organized Retail Crimes Task Force executed two search warrants in Hollywood and Hawthorne, including as a warehouse where the suspect was seen delivering stolen Nike products. Authorities said detectives, Nike’s global security director and other supply chain investigators conducted a search of the warehouse and discovered thousands of pairs of stolen Nike shoes, clothing, accessories and unique prototypes worth approximately $5 million.

ORC crew hits Walgreens 25 times from Detroit to Grand Haven
Three women from a national ORC group recently toured Michigan, hitting Walgreens stores 25 times and getting away with $99,000 in merchandise, according to court documents. The women were identified as part of a nationwide ORC crew that includes as many as 300 Romanian nationals. Surveillance photographs captured the women at some of the stores, along with their vehicles. The women wore long skirts with “kangaroo pouch” pockets, walking away with pockets full of skin care and beauty products, about $3,500 worth at a time.

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Police seize $540,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise
An Amarillo, Texas man was indicted after police seized $540,000 worth of counterfeit merchandise. According to the criminal complaint, the suspect sold counterfeit merchandise from his store where counterfeit items, including those labelled as Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Rolex, The North Face, and Versace, on display. A female employee of the store said employees were instructed to refer to the items as “replicas” rather than fakes. Police found 11,560 items with a retail price of $543,661.58 in the store. The suspect has also been sued by Rolex for trademark infringement and was ordered to pay Rolex $14,000,000 in damages, attorney fees and costs.

Men steal over $200K worth of ‘high-value’ items
Two men teamed up to steal items worth more than $200,000 off the shelves of The Home Depot and Lowe’s in several states, federal prosecutors said. During a one-year spree involving two dozen thefts, the men targeted stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island, court documents show. After the thefts, the men returned to New York with stolen items such as circuit breakers and batteries. According to prosecutors, the men tried to steal over $46,000 worth of additional products from Lowe’s on 11 separate occasions but were unsuccessful.

Trio arrested in $132K Nike Heist
Police in India arrested three men accused of stealing 1,558 pairs of Nike sneakers. The suspects, who were employed as truck drivers, stole about $132,000 worth of merchandise. They planned to sell them at a discount and pocket the profits. The ringleader is still at large, according to police. He was supposed to drive a truck carrying the Nike sneakers some 26 miles to its destination, but his supervisors noticed that the vehicle went off course and didn’t drop off the shipment on time. They followed the truck’s tracking device to the empty vehicle. Police used CCTV footage to identify a different delivery vehicle that passed the truck around the same time. Officers tracked down the vehicle at a nearby building and discovered the stolen shoes. The truck’s registration led them to the suspects, who confessed to wanting to sell the stolen sneakers in different cities.

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$300K of stolen high-end merchandise recovered during operation
A massive haul of stolen high-end merchandise and a large cache of cash were recovered by Los Angeles County’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force. The Task Force, which is comprised of detectives from several local law enforcement agencies, served a search warrant at an undisclosed business in downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department said the subject of the operation was a suspected fence. During the search, authorities recovered more than $23,000 in cash, one firearm and hundreds of pieces of high-end merchandise, including eyewear, clothing, jewelry and designer bags. Officials say the estimated value of the stolen items comes in at around $300,000, “conservatively.”

Arkansas retail theft ring responsible for thefts in 10 states, police say
Nine people have been arrested, and police are looking for several others they say stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tools and heavy equipment from businesses in 10 states. The arrests were made at two residences in Blytheville, Arkansas during Operation Heavy Lift. Arkansas State Police, the Osceola Police Department, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, the Lebanon, Tennessee, Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Memphis Police Department were all involved in the investigation that resulted in 21 arrest warrants. Police state that the group was responsible for 48 separate thefts at stores like The Home Depot and Sunbelt, and that representatives from those businesses helped them tie the crimes back to the Blytheville area. Investigators said they also recovered guns, drugs, and vehicles used to move the heavy equipment.

ORC theft ring attempted 25 East Bay robberies in a two-month period
Authorities have charged three “high-level” people in an organized retail crime theft ring with more than 50 felony counts for their alleged roles in a two-month pillaging of businesses in the East Bay and beyond. The ring attempted about 25 commercial burglaries targeting high-end retail stores, liquor stores and smoke shops. The crimes included a smash-and-grab robbery at a Louis Vuitton store that cost more than $650,000, a Louis Vuitton robbery that netted about $246,000 of merchandise, and $120,000 in merchandise from a Chanel store.

Six indicted for knocking off 130 stores in multi-state scheme
Six people were indicted in federal court in Brooklyn over an interstate theft scheme that targeted retail stores and stole more than $830,000 in goods. During the 20-month crime spree, the suspects allegedly stole rentals from Hertz and other car companies plus merchandise from Lowe’s and Home Depot locations along the East Coast, reselling the stolen items in New York. The defendants stole from 71 Lowe’s and 59 Home Depots in 13 states, from South Carolina to Maine. At least 21 of the stores were located in the Eastern District of New York, which covers Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and a swath of Long Island.

Cargo theft spiked over 57% in 2023 vs. 2022
Cargo theft incidents were up more than 57% in 2023 compared with the year prior, according to CargoNet, a Verisk company. Nearly $130 million worth of goods was stolen in 2023, but since reporting cargo theft is not mandatory, the amount is likely higher than this. “Back in 2014, we were taking in 100 or so [reports] a month,” claims Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet. “Now, we’re probably taking in about 220 plus a month of cargo theft events.” Cargo theft refers to goods being stolen at any point in the transportation journey and incidents have reached unprecedented levels. CargoNet ranks California, Texas and Florida as the top three hot spots in 2023, but the risk isn’t limited to the coasts. More incidents are being reported at inland logistics hubs, including Louisville, Kentucky.

Chicago ORC Ring Allegedly Led by Newly Arrived Illegal Aliens
The Chicago suburb of Oak Brook has been beset with an increase in retail theft and burglaries over the last year, and police say the leading culprits have been recently arrived illegal border crossers who have filtered out to the suburb from Chicago. The Oak Brook Police Department reports that 47 recently arrived illegal aliens have been arrested in connection with retail thefts and home and car burglaries just since October and more than 175 since last year. Officials noted that the thieves often use bags lined with sheets of tinfoil in an attempt to thwart store anti-theft protection devices at entrances.

$38k hockey gear heist from Canadian Tire could be the most Canadian crime ever
Police in Ontario are currently on the hunt for two suspects who committed what was perhaps the most Canadian crime ever earlier this month, stealing tens of thousands of dollars worth of hockey equipment. The duo took the whopping $38,000 in goods from a Canadian Tire in Kingston, more than two hours after the store had closed for the day. Based on security footage, the individuals entered wearing coats, hoodies, hats and face masks during business hours, with one helping the other strategically hide within a floor display in an aisle before he left. After waiting for hours, the hidden perpetrator emerged and proceeded to round up a bag full of hockey gloves from the sports section, along with nearly 100 hockey sticks that they taped together for easy transport.

Theft crew arrested for over $300,000 worth of stolen goods
Four members of a retail theft crew were arrested for allegedly stealing over $300,000 worth of items from stores across Southern California. Retailers that were targeted include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, and Walmart. Three of the suspects were allegedly responsible for working together to steal the merchandise while a fourth suspect ran a “fence” operation. When search warrants were served, detectives discovered around $300,000 worth of stolen merchandise, which included a wide variety of hand and power tools, yard care equipment, generators, A/C compressors, clothing, sneakers, tool storage chests and more. Two handguns — a 9mm and .45 caliber — were also found at the scene.

Retail and cargo theft ring busted
Detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Bureau began an investigation regarding precious metals cargo stolen from the Chicago area, which have been recovered. Over 130,000 pounds of copper and brass were seized, worth more than $1.2 million, according to the release. In addition, 50 big rig tires worth $50,000, and 10 firearms including handguns, rifles and other assault weapons were seized, the release said.

Attorney General Holds ORC Suspects Accountable for Violent Robberies
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and other partnering agencies, announced sentencing against three individuals involved in a multijurisdictional organized retail theft operation targeting Walmart and Target locations and resulting in a total loss of over $130,000. The suspects would enter stores and steal video game consoles while threatening the employees with physical violence. The alleged crimes occurred in the of counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura. Two of the five suspects remain at large and are facing multiple felony charges including organized retail theft, robbery, and attempted robbery.

Man charged with nine felonies after mPerks points stolen
A Grand Haven, Michigan man has been charged with nine felonies after reports of Meijer mPerks points being stolen. Meijer customers and mPerks account holders had their mPerks accounts compromised, login credentials sold online, and their accrued purchase points stolen and used fraudulently. A joint investigation involving Meijer, the AG’s FORCE team and the Michigan State Police led authorities to find encrypted chats in foreign online markets, where mPerks account credentials were being offered for sale, advertised with the corresponding points contained within each account. While executing a search warrant at the suspect’s home, authorities found “a significant amount of evidence” and seized over $20,000 in cash, as well as $460,000 in digital currency wallets.

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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