Organized Retail Crime Monthly News Recap: November 2023

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 our stores, threatening the safety of our customers and employees and, in many cases, the very fabric of the retail industry. To give you a better feel for the vast impact of the problems, we have provided a glimpse into just a few of the incidents that took place in the month of November. Keep in mind that the list of incidents had to be drastically reduced here simply due to the sheer number of serious criminal incidents that took place this month.

Cargo theft crew arrested with $9.5 million stash of stolen goods
Officers arrested a man and woman on Tuesday accused of having a warehouse filled with $9.5 million in goods they allegedly stole from big box retailers. The California Highway Patrol arrested the suspects after raiding multiple locations tied to their organized cargo theft ring. During the searches, officers recovered items stolen from over a dozen big box retailers in Southern California. The goods included shoes, clothing electronics and even perishables. While the companies estimated about $9.5 million in stolen goods, they are still calculating the final total. The suspect was connected to a similar raid where officers recovered an additional $9 million of stolen property in February of this year.

Officers arrest suspect allegedly involved in theft of millions of dollars in merchandise
Bakersfield police said officers arrested a man suspected in the theft of more than $2 million of merchandise this year, including a Sam’s Club cargo truck this week. According to police, the stolen truck and trailer was valued at $155,000 and the cargo inside was valued at about $62,000. Police allege the suspect and other unnamed conspirators are also responsible for over $2.5 million in stolen merchandise between February and November of this year, and other cargo and auto thefts.

Man arrested in Mesa, accused of stealing $2 million worth of merchandise
A man is facing multiple felonies for allegedly stealing about $2 million worth of merchandise at Home Depot. Mesa (Arizona) police arrested the suspect after he allegedly spent more than a year stealing from stores in several cities. Authorities say the thefts created a loss for the department store of no less than $46,000 in Arizona. He is also suspected of similar thefts in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Investigators documented more than $900,000 worth of product loss in those thefts, with an estimated total loss close to $2 million over the past three years. The suspect would use self-checkout machines to pay for a few items in his possession but failed to pay for the more expensive items in his cart. He would then return those stolen items for cash or sell them to customers through social media in various states.

More than $1 Billion in counterfeit goods seized in New York
Federal authorities in New York announced the largest-ever seizure of counterfeit goods, consisting of handbags, shoes and other luxury merchandise valued at more than $1 billion. Two people were charged with trafficking the knock-offs from a New York City storage unit and other locations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Photographs released by prosecutors showed shelves stacked with counterfeit wallets and bags in one location and handbags hanging from hooks from floor to ceiling in another.

Abduction, gun store theft has pair facing federal charges
Two men are facing federal charges in the theft of more than 120 handguns from a sporting goods store near Benton Harbor, Michigan. The theft was carried after a Dunham’s manager was abducted at gunpoint outside his home, where two unknown people approached him, held him at gunpoint and blindfolded, handcuffed and placed him in the back of his own car. The defendants then drove the manager to an unknown area and threatened the manager with a gun to his head until he disclosed the passcode for the security system at the sports store and told them how to access it. One suspect stayed to hold the manager, while the other left, entering the Dunham’s, disabling the alarm system, and filling Yeti coolers with handguns. In total, 123 handguns worth more than $100,000 were taken.

$350K of stolen goods recovered in fencing operation
A California Highway Patrol organized retail theft investigation has yielded stolen property worth an estimated $350,000. CHP’s Golden Gate division collaborated with Concord police to execute search warrants. A residence in Oakland was being used to fence stolen property, and merchandise was also found in multiple storage facilities and vehicles. Law enforcement also seized two loaded guns and $17,344 in illegal proceeds from the theft operation. The primary suspects were booked on suspicion of grand theft, possession of stolen property and conspiracy to commit a crime.

2 women admit to stealing nearly $170K in merchandise
Two women have pleaded guilty for stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from a beauty supply chain. Investigators for the Erie County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney’s Office say the suspects stole merchandise from Ulta Beauty locations throughout Erie County from March 7-August 24, 2023. One suspect admitted she stole merchandise over the course of six months that was valued at approximately $73,397. The other admitted to stealing $93,043 during the same time period. They are suspected of committing similar crimes in other counties, according to the District Attorney’s office.

5 sought for stealing meat from refrigerated truck
Police are looking for five men who stole meat from a refrigerated truck in South Philadelphia. Police say five masked men broke into the trailer and the driver was in the cab at the time. The driver told detectives that one thief told him “We’re only taking a little” then pointed to his hip, possibly gesturing to a weapon. Fifteen boxes of beef were stolen, an estimated value of $7,660. In a separate incident, a trucker awoke to find 184 cases of crab clusters were stolen from his trailer. The crabs were valued at $73,000.

Homeless man arrested in monthslong string of thefts totaling more than $35K
A homeless man from the Moreno Valley area was arrested by Redlands, California Police Department officers last week in connection with more than two-dozen thefts at a local Nike store. Police arrested the suspect in connection with 32 felony thefts at the Nike store located in Redlands. Police say the suspect stole merchandise totaling more than $35,000 over a three-month period.

Suspects allegedly involved in violent organized retail thefts arrested
San Francisco Police Department General Work and Burglary investigators, patrol officers, and members of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office Warrant Service Unit have arrested four prolific Organized Retail Crime (ORC) suspects. Investigators diligently reviewed over a dozen retail-related incidents, some of which involved violence and injury to store employees and developed probable cause to arrest the suspects for the theft of thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Florida man behind theft ring spanning 15 counties gets prison time
The ringleader of a Florida Home Depot theft ring was sentenced to prison. The suspect, identified as the leader of the retail theft operation, was arrested on charges of grand theft, among several other offenses, for failing to return equipment rented from stores in 15 counties. 44 thefts were identified during the investigation. The suspect and four other defendants were accused of destroying the GPS trackers on the equipment and reselling the equipment online. They also used stolen IDs to rent the equipment. He was sentenced to eight years in prison followed by five years’ probation, and was ordered to pay $539,360 in restitution.

Men accused of stealing more than $300k using fraudulent company accounts
Two men have been arrested for stealing more than $300,000 from Lowe’s stores in Kentucky and Indiana. According to arrest documents, the two would allegedly take items from Lowe’s stores to the customer service counter, where they would purchase the items using “company accounts.” The only issue — neither of the men worked for the companies being billed. All in all, the men purchased $319,127.84 between May and November.

Five men charged as part of organized retail theft ring
Five men have been arrested as part of a scheme to sell heavy equipment they rented, according to the Mooresville (NC) Police Department. According to detectives, an organized group was responsible for this and several thefts from Lowes stores “across the region”. The group would place ads on social media selling the heavy equipment and, once the suspects had an unsuspecting buyer, the group would rent the equipment from Lowes in order to sell it. The group brought the stolen equipment to sell but were arrested by detectives once they arrived at the meeting spot. The equipment, worth $40,000, was returned to Lowes.

137 arrests made, $60K in stolen merchandise recovered in retail crime bust
A statewide law enforcement crackdown on organized retail theft netted 137 arrests and resulted in the recovery of three stolen cars and more than $60,000 in stolen merchandise. The large-scale operation was carried out on Nov. 3 and was coordinated by the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Theft Task Force. The operation comprised of dozens of law enforcement partners across the state, divided into groups in the Southern California, Bay Area, Inland Empire and Central Valley regions.

Retail theft ring targets candles, fragrances
Five people have been charged in Harris County (Texas) connected to a crime spree targeting three-wick candles and other fragrant-forward products. “Candles, body sprays, lotions, air fresheners,” Houston Police Det. James Kneipp said. “They’re very expensive and they sell them on the streets for a low dollar. So everything’s just a profit for them.” During one month earlier this year, charging documents show the couple stole 352 three-wick candles, which usually sell for around $30, and other merchandise totaling nearly $10,000. Since June, Houston Police data shows the ring of suspects has struck 31 times, sometimes in the same day, other times returning to the same stores in Houston and surrounding cities. “There have been multiple occasions where they were arrested, let out on bond, and they continued to do the same thing up until the day we put them in jail,” police said.

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