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Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: March 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 March.

$1 million worth of stolen goods found at warehouse
Georgia deputies are investigating after they say they found a million dollars’ worth of stolen goods at a warehouse. Investigators said that the stolen property included energy drinks, thousands of iPhones, Pelotons, and entire cars. The number of goods and their location near the port led to the Georgia Cargo Theft Intelligence Group, Georgia Ports Authority Police Department, and the Bureau of Industry and Security joining the investigation. “Potentially they were brought in, getting ready to be shipped off,” said Brian Bailey, the public information officer for the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. There are currently no people of interest or anyone in custody because the investigation is still in its early stages.

Texas men charged with stealing thousands of dollars-worth of calculators
Two men from Texas are facing felony organized retail theft charges after hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of calculators were taken from Target stores in Texas and the Twin Cities metro area. Investigators believe they are part of a larger calculator theft ring based in Dallas that is responsible for more than $250,000 worth of stolen merchandise. Target asset protection witnessed the men take calculators from a rack and put them in an empty cooler before leaving the store without paying. The value of the calculators stolen by the two was $5,527.61.Further investigation revealed the men are believed to be responsible for a larger calculator theft ring in Texas that stole more than $250,000 worth of merchandise that has since been recovered.

Nearly $160K in counterfeit Trojan condoms, BiC lighters discovered in undercover operation
The bust of a counterfeit goods operation in northwest Harris County resulted in two arrests and the recovery of $158,406 worth of counterfeited Trojan condoms and potentially hazardous BiC lighters, Harris County court records reveal. This appears to be a classic diversion operation. “They set up basically a buyback type of deal where they contacted these wholesalers,” Harris County consumer fraud prosecutor Kasie Herring said. “That’s kind of how they were made aware of all of the items that they were selling that, you know, were found out to be counterfeit.” The undercover operation recovered 48 cases of Trojan condoms and 371 cases of BiC lighters, according to a search warrant affidavit. Herring said they also discovered counterfeit Listerine mouthwash and makeup wipes.

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3 charged in $2 million fake merchandise raid
Peachtree Police recovered upwards of $2 million in counterfeit designer merchandise and shut down a local retailer after a recent raid. The fake merchandise was sold out of the nutrition shop’s back room, while online orders were shipped from a Coweta County residence, police said. Investigators searched the storefront in west Peachtree City and the business owner’s residence where officers recovered 1,429 counterfeit items with 32 different designer brands at the storefront and the owner’s residence. The “conservative estimate from industry experts” is that the fake items represented over $2 million in retail value, police said.

Attorney General Announces Charges Against Suspects in ORC Ring that Targeted High-End Retail Stores
California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced charges against three people allegedly involved in organized retail theft, robbery, and grand theft carried out at high-end retail stores throughout California. The suspects allegedly conducted smash and grab style thefts by running into the stores, grabbing purses and other high dollar items, before running out. The suspects allegedly ripped the bags off of the displays even when the items were connected to displays with locks. Merchandise was stolen from Burberry, Prada, Sunglass Hut, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Michael Kors, Gucci, Coach, Versace, and Maison Margiela, worth approximately $309,752, but evidence suggests that more than $900,000 worth of items may have been stolen.

Fencing rings that netted $18 million in L.A. railroad thefts are taken down
Two theft rings that netted more than $18 million worth of merchandise stolen from railroad cars have been dismantled, authorities said Thursday, months after images of a sea of discarded containers along Union Pacific tracks in Lincoln Heights drew national attention. In the months-long operation aimed at curbing rail theft across Los Angeles County, a task force has made more than 700 arrests and recovered millions of dollars in stolen goods, including designer handbags, power tools and a pair of empty coffins, authorities said. Some of the thefts were the work of opportunists, but authorities said they identified two organized fencing rings. Two dozen members of those rings have been arrested, about half of them charged with crimes including burglary and receiving stolen property, authorities said. Their operations reached as far east as Texas; authorities said they also traced some of the stolen goods to Mexico.

Sheriff’s Department’s organized retail theft crime task force conducts major fencing bust
The LA County Department’s Organized Retail Theft Crime Task Force conducted a major fencing bust in what appeared to be a shopping center in a crime-ridden area near downtown Los Angeles. The location was actually a hidden storefront for a retail crime ring. Dozens deputies swarmed the area, detaining several people including a man they believe was helping run the operation. Investigators are still sorting through the vast amount of store products found during the fencing bust, with more than $500,000 in stolen merchandise recovered from a variety of retailers, including Nordstrom, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Sephora, Nordstrom and Food 4 Less.

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Concord Police, HSI Bust Multi-Million Dollar Gift Card Scam Operation
Concord police have arrested three suspects who may be part of a multi-million-dollar gift card scam crime ring. The scam involves stealing hundreds or even thousands of inactivated gift cards, recording the card number, PIN number, and other information, repacking or restoring the gift cards, returning them to the store, and placing them back on the shelves. A customer then goes to the store, selects a card, adds the funds at checkout, and leaves. The criminals then constantly monitor all the gift card numbers. Once the balance is added to a card, the information is given “to a different group of suspects,” who purchase electronics or other expensive items. The electronics and other items like Apple iPads, iPhones, and computers were purchased by another group of suspects and then resold.

Florida AG Charges Organized Theft Ringleader Stealing $460K from Home Depot
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced criminal charges against the leader of an organized theft ring for stealing nearly half a million dollars in heavy equipment from Home Depot stores. The suspect faces multiple felony charges for stealing heavy equipment, including stump grinders, trenchers, boom lifts, excavators and more after he was apprehended in Fort Lauderdale. He claimed to be a wholesaler and sold the equipment on Facebook Marketplace at discounted prices. The scheme resulted in more than $460,000 in losses to Home Depot and thousands of dollars in losses to civilians buying the equipment under false pretenses.

5 arrested for allegedly stealing from Detroit Lululemon store
Five women were arrested after allegedly stealing $13,000 in clothing from a Detroit Lululemon store, Michigan State Police said. Officials said they believe the women are part of a theft ring that has stolen more than $125,000 from the athletic clothing retailer. State police and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office received a tip about a shoplifting ring that conducted thefts from several Lululemon stores in Metro Detroit, authorities said. As a result, state police detectives and special agents with the Attorney General’s Office had the Lululemon store under surveillance. Investigators watched several individuals enter the store identified as suspects in previous thefts. They watched the group leave the store, each carrying a large quantity of clothing. Authorities then arrested the five women.

Nearly 100 people arrested or cited in Sacramento County retail theft bust
Sacramento deputies arrested or ticketed almost 100 people in connection with retail theft over the weekend, some of them children, the sheriff’s office said Wednesday. The operation targeting organized retail theft was at three Target stores in the county, the sheriff’s office said. During this time, of the 96 people arrested and cited on shoplifting and theft-related charges, 10 were booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail. The ages of the people arrested or cited ranged from 11 to 62 years old, the sheriff’s office said. There was one case when two people used an empty baby carrier concealed with a blanket to make it seem like there was a sleeping child in the carrier; there were stolen items instead.

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Retail Theft Crew Arrested After Targeting Sonoma County Sporting Goods Store
A three-man crew out of Oakland rushed a Santa Rosa sporting goods store stuffing merchandise into garbage bags before making a run for it. A traffic pursuit ensued with the suspects exceeding speeds of 100 miles per hour before ending in a traffic collision. Investigators would determine that the trio were suspects in a series of similar robberies throughout the Bay Area stealing over $100,000 worth of merchandise from multiple businesses. SRPD’s Property Crimes Investigations Team discovered that the suspects were likely responsible for similar thefts at several Bay Area Dick’s Sporting Goods stores. During a search of the crashed vehicle, detectives found over $5,800 worth of stolen merchandise, clothing worn by the suspects during the theft, and a loaded privately manufactured firearm concealed within the vehicle.

4 arrested for jewelry store smash-and-grab robbery
Tracy Police Department received reports of 8 subjects wearing face masks enter a jewelry store and use hammers to smash the glass displays, proceeding to take approximately $150,000 in jewelry. Four of the subjects were involved in a solo crash near the east entrance of the mall, while the other four subjects were able to get away. As the four subjects involved in the crash fled on foot, police responded and conducted a search, leading to the arrest of the 4 suspects. All four were arrested for organized retail theft, conspiracy to commit a crime, and robbery by force or fear, and booked into the San Joaquin County Jail. The investigation is ongoing.

Retail Crime Ring Targets SoCal Shoe Stores
Felony charges are expected to be filed against an alleged conspirator in a theft ring that targeted retail outlets throughout the Inland Empire and other locations. The investigation revealed the suspect was involved in an organized retail crime ring, targeting shoe stores throughout Southern California, with an estimated loss of over $150,000.

Crackdown on Retail Theft Ring Targeting Home Depot, Target in Florida, Georgia
Authorities in Northeast Florida and Georgia are ramping up efforts to dismantle a sophisticated retail theft ring that has been systematically targeting Home Depot and Target stores. This operation, uncovered in 2022 through intercepted jail phone calls, has led to the arrest of several individuals, with investigations ongoing. The suspects are accused of being involved in this retail theft ring, executing over 72 thefts across three states and amassing more than $86,000 in stolen merchandise. The investigation intensified as law enforcement pieced together the operation’s scope. Several arrests have been made, with authorities indicating that the investigation is far from over.

Six Georgia residents accused of traveling to Florida to steal $90k worth of items from self-checkouts
Half a dozen residents from Georgia are accused of traveling to Florida to steal $90,000 worth of items from self-checkout lanes at multiple retail stores. The six suspects reportedly operated the organized retail theft ring in Northeast Florida where they stole thousands worth of merchandise from retailers in over 70 separate thefts. They traveled to Florida weekly to steal merchandise using self-checkout lanes where they reportedly only made partial payments before leaving the stores with additional items. The thefts happened at stores in Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Clay, Columbia, Volusia, Alachua, and Flagler counties over the last 18 months.

For Those Interested in Learning More

March was a busy month for those involved in organized retail crime. For those interested in learning more, here are some of the additional incidents that took place this month. Click on the links to explore some of these events:

Watch: Thieves caught on camera stealing over $36,000 worth of merchandise
Suspects grabbed multiple coats and shirts, leaving the store with $36,545 worth of merchandise.

Woman charged in San Francisco retail thefts after extradition from Hawaii
The women allegedly stole 47 pairs of sunglasses worth more than $20,000. The suspect was also wanted in connection to two organized retail crime thefts.

Jury finds woman guilty burglary, organized retail theft
“Planning, sophistication, or professionalism and involved an actual taking of great monetary value” in a $39,957 Sunglass Hut theft.

Three arrested in ORC theft ring, accused of stealing up to $80,000 in product
Three suspected of being part of an organized retail theft ring steal $80,000 worth of merchandise in Kirkland Washington.

Member of organized retail theft ring sentenced to prison time
A member of an organized retail theft ring that stole $70,000in products from various retailers across Erie County was sentenced to prison time in New York.

$75K in stolen property recovered after Alameda Old Navy grand theft
Eight truckloads of stolen merchandise and multiple stolen vehicles were recovered in a retail theft operation.

Woman arrested after $70K worth of stolen merchandise recovered from Oakland home
A woman was arrested after authorities recovered approximately $70,000 worth of suspected stolen merchandise at her Oakland residence. An additional $2,700 in cash and an unregistered firearm were also recovered.

State Police arrest Bronx Man for Grand Larceny
New York State Police announced the arrest of a suspect after an investigation into a highly organized retail theft of cellular phones totaling more than $33,000.

Police Arrest Trio for Organized Retail Theft from Multiple Beach Outlets
Delaware State Police arrested three suspects for organized retail theft following a traffic stop. An inventory search resulted in over $20,000 worth of stolen merchandise and counterfeit currency.

Portland Police recover $31,000 in stolen goods, arrest trio linked to Lululemon thefts
Portland Police recover $31,000 in stolen merchandise with 28 total arrests, 1 stolen vehicle recovered, 1 firearm recovered, and 10.3g of methamphetamine recovered.

Woman sentenced for stealing $40K from Walgreens, Sephora
A woman was sentenced to two years in prison after stealing over $40,000 worth of products from several San Francisco retail stores.

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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