Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: May 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 May, 2024.

Retail theft ring raid leads to recovery of stolen merchandise worth millions
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department arrested eight people in connection with an ORC ring that stole millions of dollars’ worth of products from retailers in the region. Recovered merchandise included cosmetics, over-the-counter medication, and hygiene products, which had been stolen from retailers in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Items were then brought to multiple locations and sold to other crews who would then sell to the public. Cash and a gun were also recovered. The announcement follows raids last week in cooperation with corporate investigators from Walmart, Target, and CVS. The products were connected with a string of smash-and-grab robberies and cargo theft incidents. One warehouse was so filled with goods that it “resembled a Costco.”

Retail crime ring loses 160 pallets of stolen goods, worth $1.4 million, in Riverside warehouse raid
A months-long investigation into an ORC ring ended with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department recovering 160 pallets of stolen merchandise valued at about $1.4 million from a warehouse. The Moreno Valley Sheriff’s Station Special Enforcement Team had been investigating the trailer cargo theft ring since February and served a search warrant on the warehouse in an unincorporated area called Good Hope. Inside the warehouse, deputies found pallets stacked high with stolen goods, including food and industrial-grade tools. “This is an ongoing investigation, and deputies are working to identify additional suspects,” the department said in a statement.

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Over a million dollars in stolen merchandise seized, two arrested
A New York beauty store just blocks away from the Empire State Building resold more than $1 million worth of goods that had been stolen from major retailers such as Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Lululemon. The NYPD operation led to the arrest of two Queens residents. Both were arraigned on charges of criminal possession of stolen property, accused of operating a fencing scheme from their boutique. The goods were being openly displayed and resold at less than half their retail value. Retail investigators identified the stolen goods as originating from stores in New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, as well as other states. Many of the original price tags were still clearly visible at the time of the raid.

7 charged in connection with organized retail crime groups
A multi-agency effort focused on ORC groups operating in Vernon Hills (Illinois) led to felony charges against seven people involved in crimes locally and across the country. The operation involved three separate crews believed responsible for $100,000 in losses to Macy’s stores across the U.S., $300,000 in recent losses to Ulta locations from Minnesota to South Carolina, and a Texas-based group opening fraudulent lines of credit at Home Depot. Two vehicles were seized from transnational ORC groups; $27,000 in stolen merchandise; more than $6,000 in cash, and confiscation of an unnamed amount of fentanyl and ecstasy. This also led to the recovery of six Venezuelan migrants who police allege were recruited for work under false pretenses and taken to Vernon Hills in the cargo area of a rented box truck. The migrants said they were locked in the truck for more than two hours and feared they might die, according to the release.

Globetrotting jewelry thief caught after swiping nearly $300K from NYC Cartier, Tiffany 
A globetrotting jewelry thief suspected of ripping off swanky stores in Beverly Hills, Miami and South Korea is now behind bars following heists at Cartier and Tiffany in New York City. The suspect was busted in Manhattan last week after he allegedly jacked diamond rings — which had a combined value of nearly $300,000 — from the world-renowned jewelry stores. Authorities are also eyeing the suspect — who has a red notice out on him from Interpol — for similar heists at a Tiffany’s in South Korea, Hermes in New Jersey and Cartier stores in Beverly Hills, California and Miami, Florida.

California man arrested by police found with 2,000 cloned gift cards
A Southern California man faces dozens of forgery charges after being arrested for his alleged involvement in a gift card cloning scam that has impacted the Valley for years. Workers at the Fry’s Food Store called Gilbert police to report that a man who did not work at the store appeared to have been “restocking gift cards.” Documents say officers arrived and found the suspect, who immediately handed authorities a box full of gift cards. Police searched his vehicle and reportedly found a box filled with gift cards from various stores. In total, authorities say more than 2,000 cards were seized. Surveillance video showed the suspect putting dozens of cards back onto store shelves and that upon checking, each card had been tampered with.

Almost $200K in stolen items from Bay Area stores recovered
A man was arrested for his alleged role in a retail theft scheme that pocketed thousands of dollars of merchandise from Bay Area retailers. Investigators with CHP’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force recovered around $190,000 worth of stolen merchandise from retailers that included Lululemon, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Rite Aid, Express, TJX, Ross and Victoria’s Secret at a house in El Sobrante following the bust. Officials also seized roughly $24,000 in cash. The arrest comes after a month-long investigation into the alleged illegal fencing operation. Investigators obtained a warrant after receiving a tip alleging that the stolen merchandise was being stored at the home before being sold at various locations.

Police arrest 88 people in organized retail theft operation
York Regional Police (Ontario, Canada) have shared the results of their Booster Initiative, a project formed to combat organized retail theft. The project concentrated on 16 different retail chains, including pharmacies and clothing stores, police said. 88 people were arrested and 169 charges were laid by the investigators. Police allege that some of the suspects used violence and weapons in the robberies. Merchandise valued at $114,250 was reportedly recovered from a total of more than $333,000 worth of stolen goods. The suspects apparently used clothing or bags that had foil linings designed to “defeat” in-store security measures, which police say are often referred to as “booster bags.” Investigators collaborated with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and police services from Barrie, Durham, Halton, and Toronto.

ORC bust leads to major international counterfeit investigation
What started as two shoplifting arrests at a Target in California has cracked open what police are calling an international counterfeit ring. The Clovis Police Department said the store called the department’s organized retail crime task force unit, where police said they found a man and a teenage girl in the parking lot Friday night and caught them with several different counterfeit Apple products. According to detectives, they found $12,000 worth of counterfeit Apple Airpods and I-watches that detectives believe were made in China, shipped to the U.S. through Europe, and then wound up in Fresno. Police say their investigation is ongoing.

LEGO sets, aquarium filters among items recovered in large retail theft bust
Two men were arrested after police found them with almost $100,000 in stolen LEGO sets, aquarium filters, and more in Yolo County. Police added that the arrests were part of a larger operation involving several people for large-scale coordinated retail thefts. Images posted to social media of the recovered merchandise show a wide range of trinkets and memorabilia that were seemingly stolen from numerous stores, including aquarium filters, Star Wars LEGO sets, Super Mario Bros LEGO sets, and even multiple LEGO sets of the house in the popular Christmas movie “Home Alone,” among other items.

Men caught with 800 stolen gift cards in foiled scam attempt
Two men caught with 800 stolen gift cards at a California store are believed to have been planning to drain money from future buyers. Detectives in a newly formed organized retail theft task force held an anti-shoplifting blitz believe the stolen gift cards were intended to be used for a “card-draining” scam where thieves take stolen gift cards and either record the card numbers or replace them with new bar codes. They then secretly replace the gift cards in stores for customers to purchase. When customers activate the gift cards, scammers can access the cards online and drain the balance. “These types of thefts have already led to millions of dollars in losses around the nation to victims who unknowingly bought the compromised gift cards,” the department said.

Teens arrested in carjacking linked to $100,000 retail theft
Four teens accused of an armed carjacking are now believed to have stolen $100,000 worth of goods from a luxury retail store in Bellevue. Police say four teenagers driving a stolen Hyundai Elantra pulled up behind a victim driving a black BMW X5 and carjacked them at gunpoint. Police have connected the four — plus a potential fifth suspect — to a burglary at a high-end Italian fashion boutique. Video appeared to show the five pulling merchandise from the display cases, walking out with $106,000 in handbags, purses and totes in roughly one minute. Police say the suspects then carjacked the BMW in order to dispose of the stolen Elantra.

Major ORC bust seizes 74,000 stolen items
Authorities seized 74,000 suspected stolen items from a Burien storefront, an adjacent warehouse, and a Federal Way home. This operation, detailed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington, revealed a scheme to sell stolen merchandise globally through platforms like Amazon and eBay. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led the undercover effort, with Deputy Special Agent in Charge Steven Schrank explaining, “On multiple occasions, we had undercover officers portray themselves as individuals seeking to sell stolen merchandise.” The investigation uncovered vast quantities of healthcare products, beauty aids, and tools stolen from major retailers.

For Those Interested in Learning More

May was another 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:

California Law Enforcement Nabs 35 Suspects in ‘Operation Smash & Grab’
Law enforcement in San Bernadino County, California have arrested 35 suspects in a retail crime investigation dubbed “Operation Smash & Grab.”

Nine Arrests Announced in Retail Theft Investigation
Authorities announced nine arrests in connection with ongoing investigations into flash mob retail crimes. In addition to the recovery of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals stolen, they also recovered 37 grams of methamphetamine and U.S. currency obtained through the illegal sales of the merchandise.

3 arrested in $120,000 medication theft spree
Fairfax County (Virginia) officials have arrested three suspects from New York after a spree of over-the-counter medication thefts. According to officials, detectives received a tip that an organized retail theft crew was targeting businesses that sold over-the-counter medications in Fairfax County. The crew was implicated in thefts totaling over $120,000.

Man accused of stealing over $100,000 worth of items from Target stores
A man was arrested for allegedly stealing over $100,000 worth of items from stores across Southern California. Photos of the arrest showed a large number of stolen grocery items including ribeye steaks, bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne and Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, packs of Red Bull, Starbucks coffee, Fiji water, Topo Chico, some clothing, and more.

Target cites violence and theft as reasons to shut down nine stores
Target is shuttering nine locations across four major cities, which have been hot spots for rising crime and retail theft. Target is citing organized retail crime threatening the safety of its employees and customers as part of the reason for closing.

Man charged in connection with two dozen retail thefts at San Francisco store
A California man is facing multiple felony charges as part of an ORC group that committed at least 24 incidents alleged to have stolen over $100,000 in merchandise as well as to have caused thousands of dollars in damage to store property.

Clever Thief Stole $60K in Items Using Self-Checkout Scam
A woman was convicted on more than 50 charges after she stole over $60,000 worth of merchandise from a Target in San Francisco using a clever self-checkout scam.

Shoplifters who stole $100k from Walgreens and Safeway arrested
A team of suspects accused of terrorizing retailers for months and stealing over $100,000 from Walgreens, Safeway, and other stores has been arrested. On top of theft, they are accused of vandalizing property and using “the threat of force and fear” on multiple occasions.

Second Ringleader of ORC Group Pleads Guilty to Enterprise Corruption
The defendant admitted to being a member of a local ORC ring, participating in a pattern of criminal activity by overseeing the operation and employing other individuals to steal items from various retailers in exchange for financial compensation.

Dropped cellphone leads to arrest of four in $54,000 Cannabis Dispensary Theft
Prosecutors have charged three men and a woman after allegedly stealing $54,000 worth of cannabis products. The four were identified because one suspect dropped his cellphone at the scene, which was later used to identify the Instagram accounts of other involved parties.

Man accused in 4-county crime spree, female suspect still at large
A crime spree that spanned four Florida counties has led to felony organized retail theft charges against a West Palm Beach man and a Belle Glade woman who remains on the run. Over a 30-day stretch, they allegedly stole between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of merchandise.

Over $85K in stolen goods recovered from Bay Area flea markets
An investigation was launched on several individuals police suspected of selling stolen merchandise at flea markets in Oakland and Galt, near Sacramento. CHP detectives detained the suspects, recovering. merchandise from Lululemon, ULTA Beauty, Sephora, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, and Walgreens estimated at more than $85,000.

5 arrested in sunglasses thefts totaling $40K
Five people were arrested — and three remain at large — in connection to thefts at Sunglass Hut which totaled over $40,000.

Boise police arrest 4 members of ORC group after $20K in thefts
Police have arrested four people on suspicion of stealing more than $20,000 in merchandise from a local store. According to Boise Police Department, the suspects “worked together” to steal, traveling through several West Coast states for the last several weeks.

Suspects arrested in Tysons for retail theft spree
Police have arrested two people for allegedly stealing merchandise worth $27,000. The arrests came a day after the FCPD reported a different “retail theft crew” had been taken into custody after $24,000 worth of merchandise was found in their vehicle.

Gang of Romanian women in the UK stole £30,000 of beauty products 
Four Romanian women are facing jail for their roles in a shoplifting plot in which beauty products worth more than £30,000 were stolen in the space of a month from high street shops and supermarkets in the United Kingdom.

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